The show ultimately went on Tuesday evening in Las Vegas.
A makeshift main event on ESPN came with a bit of history, as Mikaela Mayer’s 10-round shutout of Helen Joseph marked the first time ever that a female bout served as the headliner on ESPN’s flagship network. The bout topped a four-fight bill which averaged 307,000 viewers over the course of the 142-minute telecast Tuesday evening at MGM Grand Conference Center (“The Bubble”) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The show peaked at 380,000 viewers, during the evening’s main event.
Overall, the show enjoyed a 3% increase from the previous telecast, when Carlos Takam’s 10-round win over Jerry Forrest in their July 9 heavyweight headliner averaged just 299,000 viewers.
All told, it capped a hectic past couple of days in The Bubble, as Top Rank lost its title fight headlining act one day prior. Efforts to reschedule a clash between 130-pound titlist Jamel Herring (21-2, 10KOs) and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo (31-6, 19KOs) fell through for the second time in two weeks, both occasions due to Herring having produced a positive test for COVID-19.
The 34-year old southpaw was able to show proof of a false positive, though coming too far along to salvage the bout.
In its place came a 10-round clash that was also rescheduled due to coronavirus-related reasons. Mayer (13-0, 5KOs)—a Los Angeles-bred contender now based out of Colorado Springs—was told have tested positive upon arriving in Vegas for a planned June 9 showdown versus Nigeria’s Joseph (17-5-2, 10KOs), thus cancelling their scheduled chief support.
Five weeks later came the recycled clash along with an unexpected upgrade.
Mayer made the most of the opportunity, turning in a career-best performance on a platform which has staged the entirety of her career since signing with Top Rank after her tour in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Tuesday’s result was a decline from her previous appearance on a linear telecast, when her win over Lisbeth Crespo last June peaked at more than 800,000 viewers on ESPN2 from this very MGM property ahead of an ESPN+ livestream headlined by lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in his Las Vegas debut.
Of course, the bout came at a time when sports were vibrant and healthy and home viewers were regularly watching television. Boxing has remained among the most watched shows on ESPN during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with Top Rank putting forth its best effort without a supporting cast.
Tuesday’s card also saw the return Bubble appearance of middleweight prospect “Cassius” Clay Collard (8-2-3, 3KOs) who stopped Lorawnt T. “Smash” Nelson in two rounds. Opening the telecast, gifted former amateur standout Javier Martinez enjoyed a successful pro debut in a four-round decision over Ryan Burrs.
The series returns Thursday, with another reshuffling of the deck. Puerto Rico’s Felix Verdejo (26-1, 16KOs) faces Albany’s Will Madera (15-0-3, 8KOs) in a bout that was upgraded to the main event at Monday’s weigh-in. It came about after Mark John Yap (30-15, 15KOs) missed weight by nearly nine pounds, thus cancelling his clash with three-time title challenger and current featherweight contender Miguel Marriaga (29-3, 25KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox