By Jake Donovan
Gervonta Davis and the Showtime family made the most of an undesirable situation.
The first televised headliner for the unbeaten southpaw from Baltimore, Md. was supposed to be a much bigger event, as Davis was due to defend his 130-pound title versus former three-division champ Abner Mares.
Instead, he was forced to settle for a late replacement in Hugo Ruiz, whom he blasted out inside of a round last Saturday evening at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The makeshift headliner drew an average of 429,000 viewers, with a peak audience of 486,000 coming in the nine-minute slot occupied by Davis’ quick hit.
Ruiz accepted the fight on just 11 days notice, his services enlisted shortly after Mares had to withdraw due to a detached retina which required surgery. The popular Southern California attraction helped drive strong ticket sales and was a significant part of a planned national advertising campaign to promote the Showtime Championship Boxing event.
His involvement was ultimately reduced to a heartbreaking explanation during the latest edition of Fox Sports’ Inside PBC Boxing, sporting an eye patch while explaining how he suffered the injury and where it leaves his future.
Still, the show had to go on for Davis who hasn’t fought since a three-round wipeout of former featherweight titlist Jesus Cuellar last April to become a two-time 130-pount champ. That bout marked his lone piece of ring activity in a span of more than 17 months leading into the February 9 show, which of course lasted less than three minutes for the 24-year old rising star.
The event still managed to draw several notable stars in the sports and entertainment world live in attendance. As for the card itself, Davis was left to carry the bulk of the promotion atop a televised tripleheader not exactly drenched with household names.
In the evening’s co-feature attraction, Mario Barrios took a major step in establishing himself as a rising contender in the super lightweight division. The unbeaten boxer from San Antonio, Texas looked sensational in a one-sided 4th round knockout of Mexico’s Richard Zamora in a bout which averaged 349,000 viewers.
Opening the telecast, former 130-pound titlist Javier Fortuna scored a 10-round decision over Sharif Bogere in a 10-round lightweight bout that wasn’t easy on the eyes. The televised prelim averaged 275,000 viewers.
Saturday’s edition of Showtime Championship Boxing ran opposite live NBA coverage on NBC, UFC coverage on both ESPN and Pay-Per-View as well as the debut of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) league, which aired live on CBS.
The upstart football launch won the night in key demographics ratings, even outpacing NBA on ABC across the board. Additional interest was drawn to the league thanks to well-placed advertisements during Super Bowl coverage on CBS the preceding week.
Any such promotional push geared towards Showtime’s telecast was greatly impacted once Mares—a longtime dependable draw—suffered the career-threatening injury which forced him to pull out of the contest.
While Ruiz (39-5, 33KOs) was lauded for his bravery in accepting assignment on short notice, the former 122-pound titlist was never going to fill the marketing void left behind. The 32-year old from Los Mochis, Mexico has appeared on Showtime’s flagship network just once before, a 1st round knockout of countryman Julio Ceja in their Feb. ’16 rematch on the undercard of Leo Santa Cruz’s featherweight title defense victory over Kiko Martinez.
Ruiz’s lone other Showtime-affiliated fight came on the January 19 Pay-Per-View undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s 12-round win over Adrien Broner in Las Vegas. His bout opened the four-fight telecast, scoring a 10-round decision over late replacement Alberto Guevara.
As for Davis, his next ring appearance is being tabbed for anywhere between late May and mid-July. One major component in expanding his brand is a concentrated effort to bring his title defense to his Baltimore hometown, or within the DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) region.
All aforementioned ratings data was provided by Nielsen Media Research.