By Jake Donovan
The Dec. 19 edition of HBO's Boxing After Dark featured two strong matchups on paper and a loaded undercard that appeared via tape delay on HBO Latino.
What it didn't feature, unfortunately, was at-home viewership interest that matched the effort into putting together the stacked show at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.
The final HBO boxing telecast of a hectic 2015 season saw a peak audience of 735,000 viewers, which came in Luis Ortiz' one-sided 7th round stoppage of Top 10 heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings. The main event held an average of 616,000 viewers.
In the televised opener, former featherweight titlist Nicholas Walters appeared to have won in a landslide over a game and active Jason Sosa. The three judges disagreed, ruling the bout a 10-round majority draw. The final verdict was met with major uproar both in the arena and from viewers at home venting frustration through social media. The outrage suggested major fight night activity, but the co-feature bout pulled in an average of just 373,000 viewers on the night, peaking at 473,000 viewers.
The greatest competition on the evening came from a rare Saturday night offering of pro football. The New York Jets rallied to defeat the Dallas Cowboys, with the game averaging 7.4 million viewers on NFL Network, good for the 4th highest rated game of the 2015 season on the network.
Ortiz and Sosa both made their respective debuts on HBO.
Jennings has appeared on the network in each of his past four starts, his previous HBO-televised bout coming in a 12-round points loss to then-World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. Their championship bout played to an average home audience of 1.637 million viewers. It served at the time as he most viewed cable TV bout in three years and a number that will hold firm as the second-highest rated cable televised bout of 2015, right behind Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez' three-round destruction of James Kirkland just two weeks later.
Walters has now performed on HBO's flagship station in three straight appearanaces, along with an earlier same-day tape-delayed showcase on HBO2. The unbeaten former champ from Jamaica first appeared on HBO last October, making waves in a 6th round knockout of Nonito Donaire. The bout averaged more than 1 million viewers, registering high among the most 10 watched bouts of 2014 for HBO.
His pair of 2015 appearances haven't enjoyed as much success, in fact his audience regressing with each fight. In fairness, his win over Donaire - viewed as a Fight of the Year candidate going in - was the chief support to ratings magnet and rising superstar Gennady Golovkin in his two-round destruction.
That said, Ortiz and Walters both figure to be prominently featured on HBO in 2016. There also exists the possibility of Jennings and Sosa returning to network airwaves - Jennings based on his heavyweight success despite suffering back-to-back losses; and Sosa for a brave and entertaining showing in his network debut, along with a fan-friendly style that - matched right - could land future appearances on the American cable giant.
All data provided by Nielsen Media Research.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox