More viewers tuned in Saturday night when ESPN televised the pro debut of Muhammad Ali’s grandson than for the other two boxing matches the network aired from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Nielsen Media Research released figures Tuesday that indicated ESPN’s tripleheader drew a peak audience of 467,000 during Nico Ali Walsh’s first-round demolition of overmatched Jordan Weeks. ESPN’s entire two-hour, 30-minute telecast attracted an average of 392,000 viewers.
Nielsen’s numbers don’t include those that watched this tripleheader on ESPN+, the network’s streaming service. ESPN doesn’t release its streaming viewership totals, either.
Ali Walsh, 21, dropped Weeks once and stopped him while Weeks was still standing 1:49 into their scheduled four-round super middleweight match at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Despite his limited amateur background, Ali Walsh’s first professional fight attracted a lot of attention from mainstream media outlets because he is the grandson of one of the most famous, influential figures in American history. Chicago’s Ali Walsh, a student at UNLV, wore trunks for his pro debut that were made for Muhammad Ali.
ESPN’s audience shrunk significantly following Ali Walsh’s brief debut, despite that it televised an intriguing main event. An average audience of 368,000 watched WBA world super flyweight champion Joshua Franco defeat Andrew Moloney by unanimous decision in their 12-round rubber match.
Franco and Moloney obviously don’t possess Ali Walsh’s name recognition and had direct competition on linear television. Their bout began during the sixth round of Showtime’s main event Saturday night, WBO bantamweight champion John Riel Casimero’s 12-round, split-decision defeat of Guillermo Rigondeaux.
San Antonio’s Franco (18-1-2, 8 KOs, 1 NC) out-boxed Australia’s Moloney (21-2, 14 KOs) to win by the same margin, 116-112, on all three scorecards.
Franco and Moloney fought to an infamous no-contest in their immediate rematch exactly nine months earlier. Severe swelling around Franco’s right eye prohibited him from continuing in the second round November 14 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Referee Russell Mora ruled that a clash of heads during the first round caused the damage around Franco’s eye. Moloney’s team contended that one of his punches prevented Franco from continuing, which should’ve made Moloney the winner by technical knockout.
The opener of ESPN’s three-bout broadcast – junior welterweight contender Arnold Barboza Jr.’s 10-round, unanimous-decision victory over Antonio Moran – was watched by an average of 410,000 viewers.
The unbeaten Barboza (26-0, 10 KOs), of South El Monte, California, broke Moran’s nose in the second round and easily out-pointed the Mexican veteran. Mexico City’s Moran (26-5-1, 19 KOs) lost every round on one scorecard (100-90) and nine rounds apiece on the two other cards (99-91, 99-91).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.