By Jake Donovan
Wladimir Klitschko’s latest appearance on HBO came as a late surprise, when a deal was brokered to arrange for his World heavyweight championship title defense versus unbeaten Kubrat Puelv to air live on the pay-cable network.
The reigning heavyweight king delivered in the ring and ultimately in the ratings. The rare Saturday afternoon card pulled in an average of 620,000 viewers, peaking at nearly 700,000 viewers in its first time showing when the November 15 bout aired live at 4:45 pm. ET.
Klitschko (63-3, 53KOs) won the fight by 5th round knockout in a performance far more exciting than has been the case in the majority of what is on the verge of becoming a historic title reign. The win was Klitschko’s 10th defense of the World lineal heavyweight crown and 17th consecutive defense of at least one alphabet title.
The ratings pull for November 15 exceeded his last showing on HBO, when he scored a 12-round decision over Alexander Povetkin in an ugly, foul-filled affair last October. The live showing registered 534,000 viewers.
The bout with Povetkin benefitted from a far greater promotion—the same-day replay was packaged together with the ring return of Miguel Cotto, whose 3rd round stoppage of Devin Rodriguez was the highest rated fight of 2013.
Last weekend’s showdown with Pulev (20-1, 11KOs) was picked up by HBO on short notice, therefore featuring less promotion than desired, but still resonating with viewers. The first-time viewing combined with the exclusive rebroadcast later Saturday evening generated over 1 million viewers.
All of that adds up to good news for Klitschko and HBO, with the November 15 bout the first of a recently formed pact between the network and the reigning heavyweight king.
Klitshcko's next fight is eyed for the first quarter of 2015, with the possibility of the event taking place in the United States. The last stateside appearance for Klitschko came in Feb. '08, scoring a 12-round decision over Sultan Ibragimov at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
All data was provided by Nielsen Media Research.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox