By Keith Idec
The ESPN broadcast headlined by the Vasyl Lomachenko-Guillermo Rigondeaux fight Saturday night drew the second-highest audience for boxing on basic cable television since 2012.
The 154-minute broadcast, which included four fights, was watched by an average of 1.73 million viewers, according to ratings released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.
Only one boxing telecast on basic cable over the past five years, Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn, and two overall drew higher ratings than the Lomachenko-Rigondeaux card.
The four-fight broadcast that featured Horn’s upset of Pacquiao on July 2 in Brisbane, Australia, attracted an average viewership of 2,818,000. The highest-rated premium-cable audience, No. 2 overall on cable during that same span, was HBO’s average viewership of 2,146,000 for Canelo Alvarez’s third-round knockout of James Kirkland in May 2015.
ESPN’s show Saturday night, highlighted by Lomachenko’s technical-knockout victory over the previously unbeaten Rigondeaux, also out-performed its boxing and mixed martial arts competition on premium and basic cable Saturday night.
The most-watched fight of HBO’s tripleheader Saturday night from Las Vegas, Miguel Roman’s ninth-round stoppage of Orlando Salido, averaged 534,000 viewers over 34 minutes. The ESPN and HBO boxing broadcasts partially went head-to-head, but the entire Roman-Salido main event aired after Lomachenko-Rigondeaux ended.
ESPN, which entered a four-year agreement with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. earlier this year to broadcast his promotional company’s boxing content, is a basic cable channel available in more than 80 million homes in the United States. HBO, a premium cable channel, has roughly 32 million subscribers in the U.S.
The Lomachenko-Rigondeaux show also attracted a bigger audience than UFC’s telecast Saturday night on FS1. The UFC broadcast averaged 870,000 viewers over a 185-minute period.
ESPN’s boxing broadcast also topped UFC in the coveted 18-49 demographic (761,000 viewers to 413,000) and in the 25-54 age range (736,000 to 464,000).
The overall viewership for the Lomachenko-Rigondeaux broadcast ultimately will be higher because the figures reported by Nielsen on Tuesday don’t include viewers that watched it on ESPN Deportes, through ESPN’s streaming services and away from homes (bars, restaurants, other non-household feeds).
Before Cuba’s Rigondeaux (17-1, 11 KOs, 1 NC) declined to continue following six rounds against Ukraine’s Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) in their fight for Lomachenko’s WBO 130-pound title, ESPN’s broadcast included wins by 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson, super featherweight contender Christopher Diaz and Irish Olympian Michael Conlan.
Stevenson (4-0, 2 KOs), of Newark, New Jersey, stopped Oscar Mendoza (4-3, 2 KOs), of Santa Maria, California, in the second round of their featherweight fight, which opened the telecast at 9 p.m. ET. Puerto Rico’s Diaz (22-0, 14 KOs) dropped Bryant Cruz (18-3, 9 KOs), of Port Chester, New York, four times before their 130-pound bout was stopped during the third round.
Northern Ireland’s Conlan (5-0, 4 KOs) went the distance for the first time as pro, but convincingly defeated Argentina’s Luis Fernando Molina (7-4-1, 2 KOs) by unanimous decision in their six-round featherweight bout.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.