By Jake Donovan
Despite going in as a 38-1 favorite against an unknown opponent, Sergey Kovalev came up big in his debut as an HBO main event fighter. The Russian knockout artist managed a respectable rating over just over 1 million viewers for his March 29th knockout win over Cedric Agnew in Atlantic City.
Kovalev’s 7th round knockout win over Agnew was viewed in 1.006 million homes, according to data obtained from Nielsen Media Research.
The ratings pull gives HBO its second consecutive boxing telecast of more than 1 million viewers, and third straight fight to hit that mark. Both legs of the March 1 doubleheader reached “two-comma” viewership, with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s repeat win over Bryan Vera serving as the year’s highest rated cable boxing telecast with 1.39 million viewers tuned in. The March1 co-feature saw Orlando Salido barely outlast rookie Vasyl Lomachenko, with their 12-round split decision playing to 1.017 million homes.
The show was designed to set up a fall clash with lineal light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson, who instead chose a more lucrative deal with Showtime for his May 24 title defense versus fringe contender Andrzej Fonfara.
With Stevenson walking (some will argue running) across the street, Kovalev is left with few desirable options for his next appearance on HBO. It didn’t detract from viewership interest; in fact, the turn of events dominated the weekly headlines, with all eyes still on Kovalev last Saturday.
Plans for an off-TV (or at least off-HBO) fight in Russia in May are currently delayed, due to Kovalev—now 24-0-1 (22KO)–suffering cuts over both eyes. The reigning light heavyweight titlist figures to return to the ring sometime in the early summer.
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.