By Keith Idec
Overpowering competition from “March Madness” put a significant dent in ratings for ESPN’s boxing tripleheader Saturday night.
An average of 488,000 viewers watched the telecast headlined by junior welterweights Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam, according to ratings revealed Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.
The Ramirez-Imam show drew less than half the viewership that ESPN’s doubleheader attracted the previous Saturday night. That broadcast, highlighted by a fantastic featherweight title bout between WBO champ Oscar Valdez and Scott Quigg, was watched by an average audience of roughly 1.1 million viewers.
The average rating for the Ramirez-Imam tripleheader was the lowest for any of the nine telecasts since Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. entered an exclusive content agreement with ESPN. The Ramirez-Imam match was entertaining, but it aired at the same time as multiple games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
The four NCAA games that directly competed at some point with Top Rank’s tripleheader drew at least an average of 2,439,000 viewers. From highest to lowest, those games were Gonzaga-Ohio State (6,851,000), Michigan-Houston (3,805,000), Texas Tech-Florida (2,845,000) and Kansas-Seton Hall (2,439,000).
In addition to Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs) beating Imam (21-2, 18 KOs) by 12-round unanimous decision for the then-vacant WBC super lightweight title, ESPN’s telecast included two other fights from The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
In the opener of the three-bout broadcast, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KOs) defeated France’s Mehdi Amar (34-6-2, 16 KOs) by 12-round unanimous decision to win the WBC interim light heavyweight title. After Ramirez overcame Imam, ESPN’s tripleheader concluded with Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan (6-0, 5 KOs) scoring a second-round knockout of Hungary’s David Berna (15-3, 14 KOs) in a scheduled eight-round featherweight fight.
Here are the average ratings for ESPN’s four Top Rank boxing broadcasts in 2018:
February 3: Gilberto Ramirez-Habib Ahmed (main event); 741,000 viewers.
February 16: Ray Beltran-Paulus Moses (main event); 703,000 viewers.
March 10: Oscar Valdez-Scott Quigg (main event); 1,100,000 viewers.
March 17: Jose Ramirez-Amir Imam (main event); 488,000 viewers.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.