By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Errol Spence Jr.’s stoppage of Kell Brook in Spence’s first world title fight was well worth watching.
The unbeaten Spence’s pressure later in what had been a very competitive fight made Brook take in knee in back-to-back rounds and eventually made the former IBF welterweight champion quit in the 11th round Saturday night in Sheffield, England. Unfortunately, a Saturday afternoon on a holiday weekend wasn’t an ideal television platform for Spence’s impressive performance.
Showtime’s live telecast of the Spence-Brook bout peaked at 337,000 viewers, according to ratings released by Nielsen Media Research. It also drew an average audience of 291,000.
Though the ratings were lower than if the back-and-forth fight had been televised in prime time on a Saturday night that wasn’t part of a holiday weekend, Spence still is appreciative of Showtime providing live coverage of his biggest fight to date in the United States.
“I’d like to thank Showtime,” Spence said Thursday during an informal gathering with reporters in Manhattan. “My first fight was on Showtime Extreme. My first 10-round main event was on ShoBox, against Ronald Cruz. So I have a long history with Showtime and I’m grateful for them to give me the opportunity on that type of platform, to display my skills.”
Stephen Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ executive vice president and general manager, hopes the network can televise Spence’s next fight as well. That fight figures to be an optional defense of Spence’s IBF 147-pound championship because the challenge Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) really wants – a title unification fight against WBA/WBC champion Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) – likely will have to wait until sometime in 2018 because Thurman is recovering from elbow surgery performed six weeks ago.
“Spence has said given the long layoff [before he boxed Brook], he’d really like to fight again before the end of the year,” Espinoza said. “But there’s a range of good options. That’s the good thing about the welterweight division. Someone like Lamont Peterson would be a good matchup. If the winner of [Mikey] Garcia-[Adrien] Broner wanted to go up to , it’s a good fight. We haven’t started talking about opponents, but there’s gonna be no shortage of opponents for him. Probably late fall, early winter. But the goal is definitely before the end of the year.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.