Josh Taylor’s victory over Jose Ramirez drew ESPN’s highest viewership for a boxing main event in five months.
Nielsen Media Research released numbers Tuesday that showed Taylor-Ramirez was watched by an average of 1,305,000 viewers. A peak audience of 1,673,000 tuned in toward the end of their 12-round, 140-pound title unification fight.
The average viewership was ESPN’s highest for a boxing main event since December 12, when former WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson’s 10-round, unanimous-decision victory over Toka Kahn Clary was watched by an average audience of 1,281,000.
ESPN’s entire two-hour, 52-minute boxing broadcast averaged 995,000 viewers Saturday night from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
Scotland’s Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs) knocked Ramirez to the canvas twice, once apiece in the sixth and seventh rounds, on his way to narrowly winning a unanimous decision. Ramirez recovered, rallied in the championship rounds and made their fight very close on the scorecards.
Those two knockdowns accounted for the difference on all three scorecards. Judges Tim Cheatham, Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld scored Taylor the winner by the same slim margin, 114-112.
The 30-year-old Taylor retained his IBF and WBA belts, won the WBC and WBO crowns from Ramirez and became just the fifth fully unified champion in any division during boxing’s four-belt era. The 28-year-old Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs), of Avenal, California, lost for the first time since the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
ESPN’s co-feature Saturday night, Jose Zepeda-Hanky Lundy, drew an average of 854,000 viewers.
Zepeda (34-2, 26 KOs, 2 NC), a southpaw from La Puente, California, defeated Philadelphia’s Lundy (31-9-1, 14 KOs) by unanimous decision in a mundane, 10-round junior welterweight fight. Zepeda out-pointed Lundy by the same margin, 98-92, on each scorecard.
The opener of ESPN’s three-bout broadcast, Kenneth Sims Jr.’s upset of Elvis Rodriguez, attracted an average of 927,000 viewers.
Chicago’s Sims (16-2-1, 5 KOs) beat the Dominican Republic’s Rodriguez (11-1-1, 10 KOs) by majority decision in an eight-rounder Rodriguez was consistently listed as a 25-1 favorite to win. Judge Chris Migliore scored their junior welterweight bout a draw (76-76), but he was overruled by judges Eric Cheek (78-74) and Max De Luca (78-74), both of whom scored six of the eight rounds for Sims.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.