By Keith Idec
Losing its main event might’ve cost ESPN viewers Saturday night.
Nielsen Media Research ratings released Tuesday indicated that the network’s two-bout boxing broadcast from Fresno, California, was watched by an average of 534,000 viewers. That’s the lowest viewership for one of Top Rank’s live prime-time telecasts on ESPN since an average audience of 488,000 tuned in to watch a card headlined by Jose Ramirez’s unanimous-decision victory over Amir Imam in their 12-round WBC super lightweight title fight March 17 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Coincidentally, Ramirez was supposed to make the first defense of that title in the main event Saturday night. Ramirez’s fight was canceled Friday because his opponent, Danny O’Connor, was hospitalized for severe dehydration and couldn’t even attempt to weigh in for their 12-round, 140-pound championship match.
A crowd of nearly 14,000 was expected at Fresno State University’s Save Mart Center to watch Ramirez, a popular local fighter known for his social activism, make his first title defense. Those that turned out, as well as those watching on ESPN, settled for a main event in which 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 a 10-rounder.
Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs), of Avenal, California, was a heavy favorite over O’Connor (30-3, 11 KOs), of Framingham, Massachusetts. Ramirez is more known, however, among boxing fans than Kavaliauskas and might’ve drawn more viewers.
The telecast began with a 10-round, 130-pound bout between Andy Vences and Frank De Alba. Vences (21-0-1, 12 KOs), of San Jose, California, out-boxed De Alba (22-4-2, 9 KOs), of Reading, Pennsylvania, to win a unanimous decision.
Saturday’s ESPN show drew slightly less than 100,000 fewer viewers than the network’s boxing broadcast the previous Saturday night.
That tripleheader, which featured WBO super middleweight champ Gilberto Ramirez, accounted for an average of 632,000 viewers June 30. Mexico’s Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs) out-pointed Colombia’s Alexis Angulo (23-1, 20 KOs) by unanimous decision in a 12-round main event at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
That telecast also included a “Fight of the Year” candidate in which Alex Saucedo (28-0, 18 KOs), a junior welterweight contender from Oklahoma City, stopped Australia’s Lenny Zappavigna (37-4, 27 KOs) in the seventh round of a bloody, brutal battle.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.