LAS VEGAS – Bob Arum admits this is a tougher sell than usual.

Shakur Stevenson is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in boxing, but promoting a card on a Thursday night isn’t ideal, even in “The Fight Capital of the World.” The late start on the East Coast to this ESPN doubleheader Stevenson and Edwin De Los Santos will headline, 10:30 p.m. ET, won’t help viewership, either.

This was what ESPN’s executives wanted, however, therefore Arum’s Top Rank Inc. acquiesced to the needs of the cable giant with which it has an exclusive content partnership. ESPN’s license fees, which exceed $80 million each year, almost entirely fund Top Rank’s budget for fights annually.

 “We’re not used to Thursday nights, but obviously ESPN has a great sports schedule,” Arum told “And they were bound and determined to do a boxing event the week of Formula 1 because a lot of their executives and sponsors will be in town.

“We’re doing it as an accommodation to them. Because like everything else in sports, the people who control the money get to call the shots. They’re paying for it, aren’t they? So, of course you’re gonna do what they want.”

ESPN’s coverage of the Stevenson-De Los Santos doubleheader won’t start until 10:30 p.m. ET because the telecast will follow the network’s broadcast of the college football game between Boston College and Pitt, which will start at 7 p.m. ET. The 10-bout card will begin at 5:40 p.m. ET on ESPN+, before the action shifts to ESPN almost five hours later.

Formula 1’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix has consumed much of Las Vegas Boulevard. The heavily hyped auto race, much of which will be contested on “The Strip” late Saturday night and Sunday, will begin with a practice session Thursday night.

There are thousands more visitors here than usual due to the event, which Arum hopes positively impacts ticket sales for the WBC lightweight title bout between Stevenson and De Los Santos.

Top Rank has scaled T-Mobile Arena to accommodate approximately 12,000 fans, about 10,000 less than it has held for boxing at its maximum capacity. Tickets were priced moderately, from $35 to $505, but Arum estimated that the event should generate a live gate of somewhere between $800,000 and $1 million.

That would be comparable to the ticket revenue each of Stevenson’s last two fights have produced at Prudential Center in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

The 2016 Olympic silver medalist’s last fight – a sixth-round stoppage of Japan’s Shuichiro Yoshino (16-1, 12 KOs) – attracted an announced crowd of 10,408 on April 8 to the home arena of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Stevenson’s previous victory – a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat of Brazil’s Robson Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs, 1 NC) – drew an announced crowd of 10,107 in September 2022.

“If this show was in Newark, it would do a lot better,” Arum said. “I don’t know about on a Thursday night, because the other shows were on a Saturday night [the Stevenson-Conceicao card was held on a Friday night]. But for here, on a Thursday night, I think we’re doing really well.”

The possibility of Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs) and the Dominican Republic’s De Los Santos (16-1, 14 KOs) entering the ring sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight ET should also impact overall viewership of at least the main event because Stevenson-Conceicao will take place on a work night.

Stevenson-Yoshino was watched by an average audience of 827,000 and a peak audience of 871,000 on ESPN, according to Nielsen Media Research. Stevenson-Conceicao drew an average viewership of 1,097,000 and a peak viewership of 1,150,000, per Nielsen, which monitors only linear television viewers, not the network’s sizable streaming audience on ESPN+.

The 91-year-old Arum believes those that tune in for Stevenson-De Los Santos and the opener of the telecast – a 12-round, 130-pound championship clash between Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete (38-1, 31 KOs), the WBO junior lightweight champion, and Conceicao – will witness much more competitive fights than the odds suggest. BetMGM sportsbook lists Stevenson as a 14-1 favorite and Navarrete as a 10-1 favorite.

“It’s a tough fight,” Arum said of Stevenson-De Los Santos. “You know, Shakur is a great fighter, a really great fighter, and you gotta put him in with fighters that’ll give him a challenge or else people will lose interest. And this guy [De Los Santos] is a really good offensive fighter and, you know, Shakur is gonna have to take his time to figure him out.

“But that’s Shakur’s style. He’s a master at figuring out his opponent and then, you know, the guy can’t hit him. But this is a really tough, tough guy that he’s fighting. Hopefully, he’ll be able to figure it out.”

Arum considers Navarrete a potential opponent for Stevenson in 2024, yet he feels Navarrete will have a tougher time with Conceicao than Stevenson will have handling De Los Santos.

“Conceicao is a great boxer,” Arum said. “Conceicao is gonna box the pants off Navarrete, and Navarrete is gonna hope to pressure him enough so he can destroy him. I mean, that’s not a given. I can see Conceicao winning that fight.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.