The only American television outlet still broadcasting boxing drew respectable ratings for its first telecast of 2024.

According to information Nielsen Media Research revealed Wednesday, an average of 691,000 viewers watched Artur Beterbiev beat Callum Smith by seventh-round technical knockout in a main event ESPN aired Saturday night from Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Canada. Viewership peaked at 793,000, according to Nielsen, during the Beterbiev-Smith fight for the Russian-born Beterbiev’s IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight titles.

The opener of ESPN’s doubleheader, Christian Mbilli’s stoppage of Rohan Murdock, was watched by an average audience of 502,000 and a peak audience of 531,000.

Total viewership was higher than the aforementioned figures because Nielsen tracks only viewers on linear television in the United States. ESPN does not release viewership numbers for ESPN+, its streaming service.

This two-bout broadcast also likely was watched by a significant audience in Canada. Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs) and Mbilli (26-0, 22 KOs) both live and train in Montreal.

Beterbiev, who will turn 39 on Sunday, showed that he remains one of boxing’s most destructive forces in his fight with Smith. The 2012 Olympian became the first amateur or pro opponent to drop England’s Smith (29-2, 21 KOs), who went down twice during the seventh round before his trainer, Buddy McGirt, entered the ring and instructed referee Mike Griffin to halt their scheduled 12-round bout exactly two minutes into the seventh round.

Smith, who was the mandatory challenger for Beterbiev’s WBC belt, had lost only to undisputed super middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez (60-2-2, 39 KOs) before Saturday night. Mexico’s Alvarez defeated Smith by wide margins on all three scorecards in their 12-round fight for Smith’s WBA super middleweight title and the then-vacant WBC 168-pound crown in December 2020 at Alamodome in San Antonio.

Before Beterbiev’s impressive victory, Cameroon’s Mbilli remained in position to challenge Alvarez or another top super middleweight by overwhelming Murdock with his high volume of punches. Australia’s Murdock (27-3, 19 KOs) never went down, but Mbilli battered him with an array of head and body shots until Murdock’s trainer decided after the sixth round that his fearless fighter had taken too much punishment.

The 28-year-old Mbilli is the number one contender for Alvarez’s WBA and WBC titles. The 2016 Olympian is also rated third by the IBF and fifth by the WBO.

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