By Jake Donovan
In what has become a recurring theme in his continuing rise in popularity, Gennady Golovkin was once again a knockout in the ring, at the box office and in the ratings.
The unbeaten, unified middleweight titlist racked up the 16th defense of at least one title following a 2nd round knockout of mandatory challenger Dominic Wade in front of a sold-out crowd at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The April 23 bout registered an average of 1.325 million viewers, the most-watched cable TV event of 2016 to date – and with the Nielsen ratings data not including non-subscriber viewership that came from HBO’s Free Preview weekend.
The main event peaked at 1.388 million viewers, although a progressive spike in rating wasn’t expected considering it lasted less than six minutes.
Ratings for the latest entry of HBO’s World Championship Boxing are on par with a similar Golovkin mismatch versus an unheralded opponent while competing with the NBA Playoffs for viewership. The red-hot knockout artist from Kazakhstan racked up the 4th highest performing bout on HBO in 2015 when an average of 1.338 million viewers tuned in for his 6th round knockout Willie Monroe Jr. last May.
Saturday's headliner produced a 45% increase in viewership among audiences in the coveted 18-34 demographic as compared to Golovkin-Monroe.
That event also took place at The Forum and marked the first of three consecutive shows on which Golovkin was paired up with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, who made his HBO debut that evening to the tune of an average 961,000 viewers, peaking at 1.018 million.
The unbeaten World flyweight champion opened Saturday’s telecast, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision victory over perennial Top 10 contender McWilliams Arroyo. The distance fight disrupted Gonzalez’ 10-fight knockout streak, but didn’t remove any shine from his industry-wide regard as the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet.
Viewership rose from last May’s network debut, with an average of 1.001 million viewers tuning in for the fourth defense of his World flyweight crown. The bout peaked at 1.14 million viewers.
The numbers should be good enough for Gonzalez (45-0, 38KOs) to venture out as a main event fighter for his next ring appearance.
As for what’s next for Golovkin, there’s little speculation as to what the industry expects. Among his slew of middleweight belts is the WBC interim title, which guarantees him a shot at the winner of the May 7 HBO Pay-Per-View headliner between recently crowned champ Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and welterweight contender Amir Khan.
Alvarez and the staff at Golden Boy Promotions have already exhausted a laundry list of excuses as to why a Golovkin fight doesn’t necessarily need to happen next. Their reaction has produced an adverse effect – unless the goal was to increase the true middleweight’s growing popularity.
With Saturday’s ratings performance, Golovkin surpasses another feared knockout artist for the best-performing cable TV boxing event of 2016. The mark previously belonged to Sergey Kovalev, with his reputation as the best light heavyweight on the planet further supported by his 9th round knockout of Jean Pascal in their rematch this past January, which played to an average of 1.179 million viewers and a peak audience of 1.269 million viewers.
The night marked Golovkin’s 10th appearance on HBO, which includes eight live headliners, one live supporting bout and an exclusive rebroadcast of his Pay-Per-View debut. The ratings data for such events are as follows:
- Gregorz Proksa (9/1/12): 685,000 viewers
- Gabriel Rosado (1/19/13): 813,000 at MSG
- Matthew Macklin (6/29/13): 1,097,000 viewers
- Curtis Stevens (11/2/13): 1,410,000 viewers
- Daniel Geale (7/26/14): 984,000 at MSG
- Marco Antonio Rubio (10/18/14): 1,304,000 viewers
- Martin Murray (2/21/15): 862,000 at Monte Carlo, aired live on a Saturday afternoon. Combined with prime time replay delivered 1,433,000 viewers.
- Willie Monroe Jr. (5/16/15) 1,338,000 viewers; 4th highest performing HBO bout in 2015
- David Lemieux (Oct. 17, 2015) Averaged 797,000 viewers for an HBO delay telecast of a pay-per-view fight that was replayed on Oct. 24. Fight peaked at 1,043,000 viewers.
- Dominic Wade (Apr. 23, 2016) 1,325,000 viewers; to date, the highest performing bout on HBO (and any cable TV network) in 2016
All ratings data provided by Nielsen Media Research.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow him on his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2