By Jake Donovan
Terence Crawford’s one-sided 5th round stoppage of Hank Lundy made for an emphatic debut appearance at a sold-out Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York City. However, the perceived mismatch not only played out as expected on paper, but also suffering slightly in the ratings department on a busy sports night.
The February 27 HBO-televised headliner drew an average of 982,000 viewers, peaking at 1.071 million viewers. The average viewership rating down nearly 9% from Crawford’s 10th round knockout of Dierry Jean last October at home in Omaha, Nebraska, although the fight came with the buildup of his being in the hunt for an April 9 assignment versus former eight-division champ Manny Pacquiao.
It helped overshadow the landslide odds in place for the fight that evening, furthering Crawford’s drawing power in the process. With Pacquiao set to instead face Timothy Bradley Jr. in what the Filipino icon claims will be the final fight of his career, the February 27 functionally served as establishing Crawford’s brand in a new market.
Having sold out the CenturyLink Center in each of his three hometown appearances, Crawford managed to bring Omaha to New York City.
A large contingent of family and friends made the trek from the Midwest, mingling among a mixed bag of fan bases. Rabid supporters were on hand for undercard fighters Felix Verdejo, Seanie Monaghan and Julian Rodriguez, as well as Mike Reed, whose fans from Baltimore and Washington D.C. were left disappointed when his opponent was a late medical scratch.
Verdejo’s bout with Brazil’s William Silva – in which the rising contender from San Juan, Puerto Rico scored a methodical 10-round shutout – also aired on the HBO telecast.
The matchup of unbeaten lightweights averaged 886,000 viewers, peaking at 947,000 viewers. The fight itself was tough to watch, but still served as a 45% improvement from his network debut, a 10-round decision over Ivan Najera at the very same location and also in supporting capacity with the June ’15 clash drew 611,000 viewers.
As for Crawford, it was just the second time in five HBO headlining appearances where he failed to average more than one million viewers on the night. The lone other occasion was his Nov. ’14 lineal lightweight championship winning effort over Raymundo Beltran atop a show that went head to head with the annual Iron Bowl classic between Alabama and Auburn, which drew 13 million viewers, a record audience for ESPN at the time.
Crawford once again had stiff televised competition, just not in the ring. While the HBO doubleheader more than tripled the audience for a competing Showtime telecast (topped by Leo Santa Cruz’ 5th round knockout of Kiko Martinez), neither show was able to contend with the NBA overtime thriller between the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The game’s signature highlight was provided by defending NBA MVP Stephen Curry’s go-ahead three-point shot made from 32 feet away with less than a second to go in overtime. It was a record-setting night for Curry, one that provided free-to-air ABC with 5.3 million viewers, the highest rated regular season game since 2013.
All ratings data provided by Nielsen Media Research.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox