By Jake Donovan
The August 2 split-site tripleheader generated a lot of press for HBO, though almost none of it pertained to the actual matchups that aired live from Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
Such was reflected in the ratings, in which the night served as an investment into the future more so than significant reason to turn in on a midsummer night.
The storyline for the evening was the light heavyweight title fight showcased from Atlantic City serving as a prelude to a major clash in the fall, one that also caused a major shakeup between HBO and Showtime. Sergey Kovalev survived a flash knockdown in round one to score three knockdowns of his own in a 2nd round stoppage of overmatched Blake Caparello at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City.
An average of 990,000 viewers tuned in for the light heavyweight title fight, which peaked at 1.052 million viewers. The average viewership was a slight decrease from Kovalev’s previous appearance on HBO, a 7th round knockout of Cedric Agnew that generated an average of just over 1 million viewers for his first network headliner.
For all intent and purposes, the night was about Kovalev, as a win helped moved forward plans for a highly anticipated light heavyweight unification bout with Bernard Hopkins. News of the bout broke just after last Friday’s weigh-in, with the fight scheduled to take place in November, either in Atlantic City or Brooklyn and to air on HBO.
The storyline wasn’t just Kovalev finding a high-profile opponent, but also Hopkins’ return to HBO following a two-fight stint with Showtime. It was believed that Hopkins was heading for a showdown with Adonis Stevenson, who caused a stir earlier in the year with his defection from HBO to Showtime and reneging on an agreement to face Kovalev.
Instead, Hopkins–never one to settle for the status quo–sent shockwaves through the industry when agreeing to face the dangerous unbeaten knockout artist in a fight that will come just two months shy of his 50th birthday.
How much the news impacted the ratings isn’t entirely known. Kovalev’s ratings were slightly better than the final leg of the televised tripleheader, in which Brandon Rios scored a 9th round disqualification win over Diego Chaves in Las Vegas.
The Rios-Chavez bout, an awkward brawl that started strong but quickly imploded into a foul-filled mess, drew an average of 936,000 viewers. Peak viewership for the fight reached 1.003 million viewers.
Rios ended a two-fight losing streak, albeit by means in which he didn’t desire and for a fight that almost never happened. Chaves’ travel status was in limbo due to a massive backlog from U.S. Immigration courts, as he was stuck in his native Argentina before receiving clearance Wednesday afternoon to travel abroad.
The efforts of promoter Bob Arum and Majority Senate Leader Harry Reid to save the show were properly celebrated in the media. Unfortunately, the highly anticipated brawl instead resulted in the nine rounds of dysfunction produced on Saturday, with both fighters warned and penalized for fouls from referee Vic Drakulich, who grew frustrated early and eventually lost all control of the fight before tossing Chaves midway through the ninth round.
Opening the telecast also from Las Vegas, Jessie Vargas scored an unpopular 12-round decision over Anton Novikov. The matchup of unbeaten super lightweights drew an average of 728,000 viewers, with the fight peaking at 839,000 viewers.
All data was provided by Nielsen Media Research.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox