By Keith Idec
ESPN’s boxing doubleheader Saturday night drew better ratings than each of the three previous Top Rank cards televised live on the network this summer.
Nielsen Media Research ratings released Tuesday revealed an average audience of 686,000 watched ESPN’s two-bout broadcast from Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In the main event, heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings got up from a fourth-round knockdown to drop Alexander Dimitrenko three times on his way to a ninth-round, technical-knockout victory.
The average viewership for Saturday’s telecast, which began at 10 p.m. ET and lasted nearly an hour and 50 minutes, was significantly greater than the average audience for ESPN’s previous Top Rank broadcast.
That July 14 show from New Orleans was watched by an average of 518,000 viewers. New Orleans junior welterweight Regis Prograis (22-0, 19 KOs) stopped Argentina’s Juan Jose Velasco (20-1, 12 KOs) in the eighth round of the main event that night at Lakefront Arena.
A week earlier, ESPN’s July 7 telecast from Fresno, California, averaged 534,000 viewers. Lithuanian welterweight contender Egidijus Kavaliauskas (20-0, 16 KOs) defeated the Dominican Republic’s Juan Carlos Abreu (21-4-1, 19 KOs, 1 NC) by unanimous decision in the 10-round main event that night at SaveMart Center.
The previous Saturday night, a June 30 showed that featured WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez and Alexis Angulo in the main event, drew an average audience of 632,000. Mexico’s Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs) out-pointed Colombia’s Angulo (23-1, 20 KOs) by unanimous decision in that 12-rounder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The main event Saturday night in Atlantic City wasn’t a high-profile fight, either, but it emerged as an entertaining, back-and-forth battle between Philadelphia’s Jennings and Russia’s Dimitrenko.
The 33-year-old Jennings (24-2, 14 KOs) got knocked down by a right hand in the fourth round. He recovered, took control of the fight, knocked down Dimitrenko (41-4, 26 KOs) with a left hook in the eighth round and scored a questionable second knockdown in the eighth round, when Dimitrenko appeared to go down after getting tangled up with Jennings.
Jennings knocked down his huge opponent again when he landed a right uppercut in the ninth round.
Referee Alan Huggins waved an end to their scheduled 12-round bout before Dimitrenko hit the canvas from that punch. Dimitrenko reached his feet quickly and protested the stoppage.
In the opener of ESPN’s doubleheader Saturday night, Philadelphia’s Jesse Hart (25-1, 21 KOs) knocked down Tacoma, Washington’s Mike Gavronski (24-3-1, 15 KOs, 1 NC) twice on his way to winning their super middleweight match by technical knockout in the third round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.