More viewers watched ESPN’s Teofimo Lopez-Vasiliy Lomachenko fight on Saturday night than any boxing match on American television in more than three years.
According to viewership figures released Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research, the Lopez-Lomachenko main event was watched by an average audience of 2,729,000. Viewership peaked at 2,898,000 toward the end of their 12-round main event, which Lopez won by unanimous decision.
That makes their lightweight title unification fight the most-watched boxing event on U.S. TV since Australia’s Jeff Horn upset Manny Pacquiao in the debut of ESPN’s partnership with promoter Top Rank in July 2017.
ESPN’s telecast of Horn’s surprising, unanimous-decision victory over the Filipino icon peaked at 4,400,000 viewers and averaged 2,812,000.
The entire five-hour, 47-minute broadcast Saturday night averaged 1,534,000 viewers. The telecast started at 7:10 p.m. ET and included six bouts before Lopez’s career-changing victory over Lomachenko.
The Lopez-Lomachenko bout didn’t begin until 11:54 p.m. ET, which makes the viewership it attracted even more impressive. The viewership numbers Nielsen revealed Tuesday don’t include those who watched on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+, both of which offered the entire Lopez-Lomachenko card live as well.
ESPN has approximately 83 million television subscribers in the United States.
Before Saturday night, ESPN’s highest viewership for live boxing in 2020 was the average of 850,000 that watched a one-hour block of Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder undercard bouts before the pay-per-view portion of that show began February 22 from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Boxing’s previous viewership peak since the Pacquiao-Horn bout was 2,765,000 for FOX’s telecast of Keith Thurman’s 12-round, majority-decision defeat of Josesito Lopez in January 2019 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The average audience for the Thurman-Lopez main event was 2,480,000.
Promoter Bob Arum told BoxingScene.com before the Lopez-Lomachenko bout that he hoped between two and three million viewers would watch it, even with U.S. television viewership down significantly for all sports in recent months, so that it would encourage ESPN’s decision-makers to air more of Top Rank’s best fights live on the network. ESPN executives considered televising Lopez-Lomachenko on pay-per-view or on ESPN+, its $6-per-month streaming service, but they ultimately decided to televise Lopez’s star-making performance live on the network.
Lopez out-boxed Lomachenko, who was a 4-1 favorite, to win unanimously in boxing’s biggest fight since the COVID-19 pandemic essentially shut down the sport for nearly three months earlier this year. Judges Julie Lederman (119-109), Steve Weisfeld (117-111) and Tim Cheatham (116-112) scored their bout for the 23-year-old Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs), who became the youngest fully unified champion in boxing’s four-belt era.
The 32-year-old Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs), who lost for the first time in 6½ years, was commonly considered one of the top three boxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport prior to Saturday night. Before Brooklyn’s Lopez upset him, Ukraine’s Lomachenko hadn’t lost since Mexico’s Orlando Salido defeated the three-division champion by split decision in their 12-round, 126-pound championship match in March 2014 at Alamodome in San Antonio.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.