By Jake Donovan
Between HBO and Showtime, boxing fans were treated to in-ring action on April 18 comprising of: the most watched fighter of 2014; a fight whose participants separately served in the past two Fight of the Year recipients; and the 2014 BWAA Fighter of the Year.
Because the networks went head-to-head (a disturbing tradition that seems to occur around this time every year), the audiences were divided on the action, with HBO winning the network battle but plenty of fans tuning in overall.
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. made his debut as a SHOWTIME headliner and under the Al Haymon advisory banner. The ring result was disastrous—a corner stoppage loss to Andrzej Fonfara after nine rounds in Carson, Calif.—and his viewership also saw a considerable dip. The main event pulled in 618,000 viewers. The bout topped out at 836,000 viewers.
His pair of fights with Bryan Vera were big hits with HBO;. Their first fight in Sept. ’13 was the second-most watched bout of the year at 1.416 million viewers, right behind Miguel Cotto’s hiatus-ending 3rd round stoppage over Delvin Rodriguez one week later, his first fight in 10 months.
Chavez-Vera II played to 1.39 million homes, a slight dip from the first fight but still good for the most watched fight of 2014.
Fonfara picked up the biggest win of his career, but also a spike from his most recent fight and victory. The perennial Top 5 light heavyweight contender has appeared twice before on Showtime - a hard-fought points loss to World light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson last May, and a rebound win over Doudou Ngumbu in November. The championship bout with Stevenson played to an average of 672,000 homes, while his win over Ngumbu drew 413,000 viewers in a show that carried a lesser budget than traditional Showtime Championship Boxing telecasts.
Chavez-Fonfara sat atop a televised tripleheader which included: the continued emergence of unbeaten 140 lb. prospect Amir Imam, who scored a 10-round decision over Walter Castillo; and Moises Flores pull off a minor upset with a 12-round win over Oscar Escandon, picking up a secondary 122 lb. title in the process.
Meanwhile, HBO presented a split-site doubleheader dedicated to the 140 lb. division.
Terence Crawford made his first appearance of the year following a breakout 2014 campaign hailed by the Boxing Writers Association of America as worthy of Fighter of the Year honors. His 2015 run is off to a booming start, scoring a 6th round knockout of Thomas Dulorme in his return to the 140 lb. division after vacating the World lightweight championship.
Their bout drew just over 1 million viewers, peaking at 1.084 million. The tally is nearly a 20% increase in viewership for Crawford since his last fight, when his Lightweight championship winning effort over Raymundo Beltran played to 836,000 viewers. His best ratings pull came last June when an average of more than 1.2 million homes tuned in for his thrilling 9th round knockout of Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Lucas Matthysse serves as one-half of the 2014 Fight of the Year as recognized by the BWAA, as he and John Molina will be honored with the award this Friday during the 90th Annual BWAA Awards Dinner. It was only fitting that his opponent for his first fight of 2015 came against Ruslan Provodnikov, whose narrow points loss to Tim Bradley served as the top fight of 2013.
Together, they made for one hell of a scrap—not necessarily one that will land top honors in 2015, but still good for 12 memorable rounds of action. In the end, Matthysse prevailed with a majority decision, and their bout won the ratings battle for the night, with the war viewed by 1.243 million homes, topping out at 1.38 million.
The bout was a massive increase from Matthysse-Molina, which played to 748,000 homes exactly 51 weeks ago on Showtime. For Provodnikov, it was a spike from his last bout on HBO, when just over 1 million viewers tuned in for his disputed points loss to Chris Algieri last June in Brooklyn, New York, his first bout as the A-side of an HBO telecast.
All data provided by Nielsen Media Research.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox