By Keith Idec
How good was the Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko heavyweight title fight?
So good that, according to Nielsen Media Research ratings released Tuesday, an average of 738,000 viewers watched HBO’s same-day replay of Joshua-Klitschko. HBO’s delayed telecast started at 11 p.m. ET on Saturday, five full hours after it ended with Joshua winning by 11th-round technical knockout in London.
Peak viewership for HBO’s broadcast was 890,00 viewers for a fight that featured thrill-filled, back-and-forth fifth and sixth rounds at a sold-out Wembley Stadium. The ratings for its Joshua-Klitschko replay exceeded ratings for each of HBO’s three live boxing broadcasts in 2017.
The premium-cable channel’s previous peak audience for this year was the 886,000 that tuned in to watch at least some of Vasyl Lomachenko’s nine-round domination of Jason Sosa on April 8 in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The average audience for that “World Championship Boxing” main event was 832,000 viewers.
Klitschko’s previous fight on HBO, a live feed of his dull decision defeat to Tyson Fury in November 2015, drew an average of 1,038,000 viewers. The Klitschko-Fury fight also began late in the afternoon in the Eastern time zone.
Viewership for HBO’s Joshua-Klitschko replay also surpassed Showtime’s live broadcast of what was billed as the biggest heavyweight fight since Lennox Lewis knocked out Mike Tyson in June 2002.
An average of 659,000 viewers tuned in to Showtime’s live telecast Saturday of a fight that began just after 5 p.m. ET and 2 p.m. PT. Showtime’s peak audience for its live broadcast was 763,000, during the seventh round.
Television ratings typically are lower during the afternoon than at night. Showtime also has roughly 24 million subscribers in the United States, approximately eight million fewer than HBO, thus the average penetration per subscriber was slightly higher for Showtime’s live telecast of Joshua-Klitschko (3.17 percent for Showtime’s peak audience; 2.78 percent for HBO’s peak audience).
As part of an agreement the premium-cable competitors reached a few weeks ago, HBO has the rights to air a Joshua-Klitschko rematch live. Showtime would offer a same-day, delayed telecast of the rematch, as per that deal.
The 41-year-old Klitschko hasn’t decided whether he’ll exercise his immediate rematch clause. Public demand definitely won’t be an issue following the unforgettable fight England’s Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) and Ukraine’s Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs) produced before a record crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium.
Joshua dropped Klitschko 27 seconds into the fifth round, but the former champion withstood those tumultuous moments as Joshua appeared to tire while trying to finish him off. Klitschko came back to floor Joshua with a right hand with about 1:53 to go in the sixth round.
The 27-year-old Joshua also displayed incredible recuperative powers by fending off the hard-hitting Klitschko and exhaustion to make it to the end of the sixth round. Five rounds later, a rejuvenated Joshua attacked Klitschko to start the 11th round and hurt him almost immediately.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist knocked down Klitschko twice more in the 11th round. Klitschko reached his feet both times, but referee David Fields stopped the fight at 2:25 of the 11th round, with Klitschko still on his feet.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.