The Shakur Stevenson-Jamel Herring fight mostly maintained an audience in excess of 1.2 million late Saturday night, despite the one-sided nature of a main event ESPN televised.
Nielsen Media Research released viewership figures Tuesday that indicated an average of 1,233,000 viewers watched Stevenson-Herring, which didn’t begin until 12:09 a.m. EDT Sunday morning from State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Viewership peaked at 1,264,000 for a WBO junior lightweight title fight Stevenson won by 10th-round technical knockout.
ESPN’s entire telecast, which began at 10:39 p.m. EDT and ended at 12:55 a.m. EDT, drew an average audience of 1,306,000. Nielsen’s numbers include only those that watched on ESPN’s linear channel in the United States, not viewers who watched on ESPN+ or ESPN Deportes.
ESPN doesn’t report viewing totals from ESPN+, a $6-per-month streaming service that is not tracked by Nielsen’s service.
The 24-year-old Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs), a two-division champion from Newark, New Jersey, opened cuts above both of Herring’s eyes and remained in almost complete control from the opening bell until referee Mark Nelson stepped between them to stop their scheduled 12-round, 130-pound title bout at 1:30 of the 10th round. Cincinnati’s Herring (23-3, 11 KOs), who was behind by insurmountable margins on all three scorecards, didn’t protest the stoppage, even though he hadn’t been knocked down during their bout.
Stevenson’s impressive victory drew higher ratings than his prior appearance on ESPN. His convincing, uneventful, 12-round, unanimous-decision victory over unknown Namibian contender Jeremiah Nakathila (21-2, 17 KOs) drew an average audience of 857,000 and a peak audience of 927,000 on June 12 from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
An audience more comparable to Saturday night tuned in for Stevenson’s appearance on ESPN before he beat Nakathila. That main event – a 10-round, unanimous-decision victory over Toka Kahn Clary – attracted an average of 1,281,000 viewers December 12 from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Viewership of the opener of ESPN’s tripleheader Saturday night was higher than for the Stevenson-Herring bout, but Nico Ali Walsh’s third-round stoppage of James Wesley III benefited from a strong lead-in.
ESPN aired the Alabama-Tennessee college football game immediately before its boxing broadcast began. Nielsen reported Tuesday that an average of 4,679,000 watched fourth-ranked Alabama beat Tennessee, 52-24.
Thanks in part to strong viewership of Alabama-Tennessee, the brief Ali Walsh-Wesley fight attracted an average of 1,796,000 viewers. Las Vegas’ Ali Walsh (2-0, 2 KOs), a 21-year-old grandson of Muhammad Ali, dropped Wesley (1-1), of Toledo, Ohio, twice before Wesley’s corner men stopped their scheduled four-round super middleweight match 30 seconds into the third round.
An average audience of 1,139,000 watched the second fight of ESPN’s three-bout broadcast – Xander Zayas’ technical knockout of Dan Karpency. Puerto Rico’s Zayas (11-0, 8 KOs) battered a game but overmatched Karpency (9-4-1, 4 KOs), of Adah, Pennsylvania, for four full rounds, until Karpency’s father/trainer, Tom, instructed referee Brian Stutts to stop their scheduled six-round junior middleweight match.
Viewership of ESPN’s boxing broadcast Saturday night peaked at 2,333,000, but that was before the Ali Walsh-Wesley bout began.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.