By Keith Idec
Bernard Hopkins' farewell fight against Joe Smith Jr. drew an average of 934,000 viewers for HBO on Saturday night, according to figures released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.
The future Hall-of-Fame fighter's eighth-round technical knockout loss peaked at 1,035,000 viewers during that eighth and final round, which ended with Smith (23-1, 19 KOs) knocking Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) out of the ring and left him flat on his back, unable to get back in the ring within the allowable 20 seconds.
The last fight of the former undisputed light heavyweight and middleweight champion's 28-year pro career headlined a three-fight HBO "World Championship Boxing" tripleheader from The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Viewership for the first two bouts HBO broadcast typically was lower than that of the main event.
An average of 644,000 viewers watched featherweight contender Joseph Diaz Jr. (23-0, 13 KOs) out-point Mexico's Horacio Garcia (30-2-1, 22 KOs) in their 10-round fight. A peak audience of 707,000 viewers watched the Diaz-Garcia bout, which was controlled by the emerging 2012 American Olympian from Downey, California.
The opener of the tripleheader, Oleksandr Usyk's ninth-round stoppage of Thabiso Mchunu, was watched by an average of 560,000 viewers and peaked at 645,000. Ukraine's Usyk (11-0, 10 KOs) dropped Mchunu (17-3, 11 KOs) three times on his way to winning by technical knockout and defending his WBO world cruiserweight title.
The tripleheader topped by Hopkins-Smith did a better overall rating than HBO's "World Championship Boxing" main event the previous Saturday.
That December 10 fight, Terence Crawford's eight-round domination of overmatched John Molina Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska, drew an average viewership of 806,000 and peaked at 871,000.
But that telecast went head-to-head with a "Showtime Championship Boxing" broadcast that featured Abner Mares' unanimous-decision defeat of Jesus Cuellar from USC's Galen Center in Los Angeles. The Mares-Cuellar clash averaged 327,000 viewers and peaked at 377,000.
Hopkins' previous performance on HBO, a 12-round unanimous-decision defeat to then-light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev in November 2014, was watched by more people than the Hopkins-Smith match.
An average of 1,328,000 viewers watched Kovalev dominate Hopkins. Russia's Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) was a much more proven fighter than Smith, however, while Hopkins was two years younger and coming off successive victories over Beibut Shumenov, Karo Murat and Tavoris Cloud.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.