By Keith Idec
Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jorge Linares was the most-watched boxing match on cable television in 2018.
According to Nielsen Media Research statistics released Wednesday, Lomachenko’s 10th-round technical knockout of Linares drew a peak audience of 1,749,000 on Saturday night for ESPN. The average audience during that main event from Madison Square Garden was 1,439,000.
When the broadcast began at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, 529,000 viewers were watching. Thus the audience more than tripled from the time it began until it reached its peak during the 10th round of Lomachenko-Linares.
Prior to Saturday night, the Gennady Golovkin-Vanes Martirosyan middleweight title fight drew the highest ratings of any boxing match on cable in 2018. Golovkin’s second-round knockout of Martirosyan attracted a peak audience of 1,361,000 and an average audience of 1,249,000 on May 5 from StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Golovkin-Martirosyan was broadcast by HBO, a premium cable channel that has a U.S. subscriber base of roughly 32,000,000. ESPN, a basic cable network, is available in approximately 86 million homes in the United States.
As BoxingScene.com reported Tuesday, the average audience for ESPN’s entire two-bout broadcast Saturday night was 1,024,000. The telecast began with welterweight prospect Carlos Adames’ 10-round, unanimous-decision victory over Alejandro Barrera.
The average rating for Lomachenko-Linares was higher than all but one of Top Rank’s first five ESPN boxing broadcasts in 2018.
The only Top Rank/ESPN broadcast that lured a higher average audience overall in 2018 was the card headlined by Oscar Valdez’s victory over Scott Quigg in a WBO featherweight championship match March 10. That telecast from StubHub Center was watched by an average audience of 1,100,000.
Lomachenko-Linares also ranked No. 3 among all shows on cable television Saturday night, sports and non-sports, in viewers ages 18-49, a coveted demographic for advertisers.
Viewers witnessed a highly competitive, compelling battle between tremendous technical boxers.
Ukraine’s Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) was behind on one scorecard – 84-86, 86-84 and 85-85 – when the skillful southpaw unloaded a diverse, 10-punch combination to Linares’ head that opened up a chance to land a perfectly placed left hook to Linares’ liver in the 10th round.
That punch temporarily paralyzed Linares and sent him to one knee. The 32-year-old Linares (44-4, 27 KOs) reached his feet just before referee Ricky Gonzalez’s count got to 10, but Gonzalez determined Linares shouldn’t continue and stopped their bout at 2:08 of the 10th round.
The 30-year-old Lomachenko took the WBA world lightweight title from Venezuela’s Linares in his debut at 135 pounds. The two-time Olympic gold medalist also became a world champion in a third weight class in only his 12th professional fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.