By Keith Idec
Claressa Shields’ fight drew the highest ratings during HBO’s final boxing broadcast Saturday night.
Shields’ win against Femke Hermans, the opener of the premium cable network’s “Boxing After Dark” tripleheader, attracted a peak audience of 379,000 viewers, according to ratings revealed Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research. The Shields-Hermans match was watched by an average of 339,000 viewers.
The 23-year-old Shields (8-0, 2 KOs), a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Flint, Michigan, easily beat Belgium’s Hermans (9-2, 3 KOs) by unanimous decision in their 10-rounder for Shields’ IBF, WBC and WBA middleweight titles at StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Those were the second-highest ratings produced in 2018 by Shields, who has quickly become boxing’s biggest women’s star in the United States. Her 10-round, unanimous-decision defeat of Hanna Gabriels drew a peak audience of 410,000 and an average audience of 376,000 for Showtime on June 22 from Masonic Temple in Detroit.
The two fights HBO aired after Shields’ win drew lower ratings Saturday night.
The middle bout – Juan Francisco Estrada’s victory over Victor Mendez – peaked at 326,000 viewers and averaged 300,000. Mexico’s Estrada (38-3, 26 KOs) beat Mexico’s Mendez (28-4-2, 20 KOs) by technical knockout following the seventh round of a 10-round super bantamweight bout.
The main event – Cecilia Braekhus’ 10-round, unanimous-decision win against Aleksandra Magdziak-Lopes – was watched by a peak audience of 347,000. Norway’s Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs) successfully defended her IBF, IBO, WBA, WBC and WBO welterweight titles by beating Magdziak-Lopes (18-5-3, 1 KO), of Marshfield, Massachusetts.
HBO’s show also included numerous memorable highlights from the network’s 45 years in boxing. Blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley, analyst Roy Jones Jr. and retired commentator Larry Merchant offered heartfelt farewells during the nearly three-hour broadcast as well.
Peter Nelson, HBO Sports’ vice president, announced late in September that the network would shift its sports focus away from televising live boxing after 2018. HBO, once the best boxing brand in broadcasting, televised three cards thereafter.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.