Forced to proceed with a show that saw its main event fall out barely 12 hours prior to the telecast, the latest edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN produced its lowest rating since returning earlier this month.
The June 18 installment of the series—which aired five fights over the course of the three-hour telecast—averaged 305,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The show peaked at 382,000 viewers, coming at the 10:00pm ET hour for the evening’s makeshift headliner which saw Gabe Flores Jr. (17-0, 6KOs) earn a 10-round shutout decision over Miami-based Nicaraguan lightweight Josec Diaz (21-3-3, 14KOs) live from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Thursday’s show—which went on air at 8:00pm ET—was down nearly 15% from a similarly slotted event on Tuesday, in which a six-fight card topped by “Magic” Mike Plania’s upset win over bantamweight contender Joshua Greer averaged 350,000 viewers as a whole. That show peaked at 503,000 viewers during the main event.
Four fight cards have aired on ESPN since returning on June 9. None of the shows have yet to crack 400,000 viewers, although more telling of fewer people as a whole watching the network on weeknights. ESPN’s boxing coverage has remained its best-performing events each night it has aired.
As much was the case on Thursday evening, with a 7:00 pm ET edition of SportsCenter Prime averaged just 157,000 viewers as the lead-in to the Top Rank card. Viewership dipped once the fighting ceased, as the trailing 11:00 pm ET of SportsCenter averaged 164,000 viewers.
Flores’ landslide decision topped a five-fight show which also saw middleweight spoiler “Cassius” Clay Collard unseat another undefeated opponent. The Utah-bred fighter outslugged Israeli southpaw David Kaminsky over six bruising rounds which caught fire among viewers reacting through social media.
The card was originally due to have been headlined by a junior lightweight crossroads bout between former two-division titlist Jose Pedraza and former title challenger Mikkel LesPierre. The bout was scrapped Thursday morning, when LesPiere was forced to withdraw and leave the site after his manager, Jose Taveras tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Per protocol with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, all team members of any party who tests positive are not permitted to remain on the show or in the sanitized area known as “The Bubble.”
The hope is for the bout to be rescheduled on July 14.
A special edition of the summer series returns Saturday evening, making its debut in Mexico City. Unbeaten junior featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete moves up in weight, facing countryman Uriel Perez in a non-title fight at featherweight.
Three shows will also air the following week, with the Moloney twins—Andrew and Jason—headlining separate cards next Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, from Las Vegas. Long-reigning 130-pound titlist Miguel Berchelt tops the June 27 edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN, facing Eleazar Valenzuela in a non-title fight at lightweight.
The card marked Flores’ first as a televised headliner, having been frequently showcased in supporting capacity on ESPN platforms.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox