By Keith Idec
The last “World Championship Boxing” broadcast of HBO’s 45-year run in boxing drew lower ratings Saturday night than its previous such telecast.
Nielsen Media Research ratings released Wednesday indicated that HBO’s main event, Dmitry Bivol’s victory over Jean Pascal, attracted a peak audience of 537,000 viewers. An average audience of 467,000 watch the Bivol-Pascal telecast from Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Russia’s Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) beat the faded former champion by unanimous decision in their 12-round, 175-pound championship match. The Kyrgyzstan native won by big margins on the scorecards of judges Lynne Carter (119-109), Henry Grant (117-111) and Carlos Ortiz Jr. (119-109) at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Etess Arena.
The ratings for Saturday’s main event were slightly worse than HBO’s previous “World Championship Boxing” broadcast. Viewership of this show was reflective, too, of how boxing fans felt about what was considered a relatively easy fight for Bivol, the WBA light heavyweight champion.
Most Internet sports books listed Bivol as at least a 14-1 favorite against Quebec’s Pascal (33-6-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC), who’s 36 and 7½ years removed from losing his WBC light heavyweight crown to Bernard Hopkins.
HBO’s prior “World Championship Boxing” main event, Daniel Jacobs-Sergey Derevyanchenko, drew low ratings in comparison to most of HBO’s comparable boxing offerings. Jacobs-Derevyanchenko was a competitive, entertaining fight – a 12-rounder Jacobs won by unanimous decision to capture the then-vacant IBF middleweight title – yet it drew a peak audience of only 553,000 and an average of 500,000 viewers.
The opener of HBO’s doubleheader Saturday night drew a peak audience of 440,000 and an average viewership of 405,000.
In that bout, undefeated super bantamweight prospect Murodjon Akhmadaliev beat Isaac Zarate by ninth-round technical knockout.
Uzbekistan’s Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4 KOs), a bronze medalist at the 2016 Summer Olympics, dominated the light-punching Zarate until referee Eric Dali stepped in at 1:17 of the ninth round to prevent Zarate from taking more punishment. Akhmadaliev became the first opponent to beat the courageous Zurate (16-4-3, 2 KOs), of San Pedro, California, by knockout or technical knockout.
HBO will air its last live boxing event December 8 from StubHub Center in Carson, California. That “Boxing After Dark” tripleheader will feature women’s welterweight champ Cecilia Braehkus (34-0, 9 KOs), women’s middleweight champ Claressa Shields (7-0, 2 KOs) and onetime pound-for-pound king Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (47-2, 39 KOs).
Peter Nelson, HBO Sports’ executive vice president, announced in a statement two months ago that the premium cable network would no longer broadcast boxing after airing the fights it had committed to televising toward the end of this year.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.