By Jake Donovan
Richard Commey registered the first defense of his lightweight title along with perhaps his best win to date with his most recent ring performance.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t witnessed by nearly as many viewers as when he first won the title.
The hard-hitting lightweight from Ghana was dominant in an 8th round stoppage of former titlist Raymundo Beltran atop the June 28 edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN. The show aired live from Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., averaging 490,000 viewers over the course of the two-hour telecast, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The event marked Commey’s first main event on ESPN and second straight appearance on the platform. His previous outing came in February, scoring a 2nd round knockout of Isa Chaniev to win the lightweight title in the opening leg of an ESPN-televised doubleheader topped by featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez, with the show averaging a 2019 season-best 880,000 viewers and peaking at more than 1 million viewers.
That card preceded an ESPN+ doubleheader headlined by Sergey Kovalev’s title-regaining effort over prior conqueror Eleider Alvarez, taking place on the eve of the NFL Super Bowl.
Friday’s card had little in the way of a supporting lead-in or even a notable undercard. In the evening’s chief support, unbeaten super welterweight Carlos Adames scored a 10-round win over Long Island (N.Y.) native Patrick Day as he continues to build towards a title run in the 154-pound division.
The majority of the ESPN boxing telecasts in 2019 have aired live in primetime on Saturday evenings. This edition was just the second of the year to air on a Friday (excluding ESPN+ exclusive cards), the lone other occasion coming in February when Rob Brant defended his middleweight title for the first time atop a show which averaged 704,000 viewers.
In stark contrast, the June 28 show produced the third-lowest average viewership for an ESPN boxing telecast this year.
The good news is that far more eyes should be on Commey’s future lightweight run.
The plan among the Top Rank staff is to continue to pair its top lightweights until an undisputed champion is produced. What that next means for Commey is a title defense versus the winner of the July 19 title eliminator between Teofimo Lopez and Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani in a battle of unbeaten lightweight contenders.
From there, the winner will square off versus whomever prevails in three-belt lightweight title clash between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Luke Campbell, which will take place August 31 in London, England.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox