By Keith Idec
Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza was the second most-watched boxing match on American cable or network television this year.
Nielsen ratings released Tuesday indicated that ESPN’s Lomachenko-Pedraza fight attracted an of 2,013,000 viewers Saturday night from The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. The entire three-fight telecast averaged 1,865,000 viewers over three hours and 23 minutes.
The only boxing show to out-draw Lomachenko-Pedraza in terms of ratings in 2018 was headlined by Terence Crawford and Jose Benavidez Jr. That two-bout broadcast, in which the unbeaten WBO welterweight champion stopped Benavidez in the 12th round, drew a peak audience of 2,800,000 and averaged 2,245,000 viewers October 13 from CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Crawford’s hometown.
The precise peak viewership for the Lomachenko-Pedraza was not yet available late Tuesday afternoon, but it went over 2,100,000 viewers at some point during the course of Lomachenko’s victory.
Ukraine’s Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) dropped Puerto Rico’s Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs) twice in the 11th round. The highly skilled southpaw went on to win a 12-round unanimous decision, defended his WBA lightweight title and captured Pedraza’s WBO 135-pound championship.
Lomachenko’s win over Pedraza also drew more viewers than the three-division champion’s previous performance on ESPN.
That fight, Lomachenko’s 10th-round knockout of Jorge Linares, peaked at 1,749,000 viewers May 12 from Madison Square Garden. That two-fight show drew an average of 1,024,000 viewers.
The tripleheader Saturday night also included victories by Emanuel Navarrete and Teofimo Lopez.
Mexico’s Navarrete (26-1, 22 KOs), an unknown underdog, upset Ghana’s Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14 KOs) by unanimous decision in their 12-round fight for Dogboe’s WBO junior featherweight title. Las Vegas’ Lopez (11-0, 9 KOs), one of boxing’s top prospects, produced a one-punch, 44-second knockout of Mason Menard (34-4, 24 KOs) – an indisputable leading candidate for “Knockout of the Year” that briefly left Menard unconscious, face-first on the canvas.
The average viewership for Lomachenko-Pedraza was higher, too, than that of six of the seven NBA games broadcast on basic cable last week. The only NBA matchup that averaged more viewers throughout its duration than the entire Lomachenko-Pedraza telecast was the Golden State-Milwaukee game, which averaged 2,021,000 viewers Friday night.
Lomachenko-Pedraza was No. 2 as well in terms of overall viewership on all of cable television Saturday among males ages 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, demographics coveted by advertisers. That No. 2 ranking includes all sports and non-sports programming on basic and premium cable.
Like the Crawford-Benevidez broadcast, which was preceded by top-ranked Alabama’s victory over Missouri, Lomachenko-Pedraza benefited from a strong college football lead-in.
The Heisman Trophy show, in which Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray beat out two other finalists for the award, aired live from Manhattan’s PlayStation Theater in the hour before ESPN’s boxing broadcast began with Lopez’s spectacular knockout of Menard. The Heisman show averaged 2,928,000 viewers.
The Alabama-Missouri game averaged 3,758,000 viewers October 13.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.