By Keith Idec
Keith Thurman’s split-decision victory over Danny Garcia on Saturday night was the most-watched boxing match in prime time since Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions brought boxing back to network television regularly two years ago.
According to ratings released Wednesday by Nielsen Media Research, the Thurman-Garcia welterweight championship unification fight, which was televised by CBS, drew a peak audience of 5.1 million viewers in the 12th round. An average of 3.74 million viewers watched Thurman-Garcia.
The entire telecast, which also included Erickson Lubin’s fourth-round knockout of Jorge Cota at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, averaged 3.1 million viewers.
The Thurman-Garcia ratings topped the viewership of the last fight CBS broadcast in prime time, Thurman’s unanimous-decision defeat of Shawn Porter on June 25 at Barclays Center. Thurman-Porter, though a more entertaining fight than Thurman-Garcia, peaked at 3.94 million viewers and averaged 3.15 million.
CBS’ boxing broadcast Saturday night beat ABC’s telecast of the Clippers-Bulls game, which averaged 1.7 million viewers, by a sizeable margin.
Viewership of Thurman-Garcia also exceeded a card televised in prime time by FOX the previous Saturday night. That February 25 show, headlined by WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder’s fifth-round knockout of Gerald Washington in Birmingham, Alabama, attracted a peak audience of 2.54 million viewers and an average viewership of 1.86 million.
Thurman-Garcia was just the second main event CBS has televised in prime time since Leon Spinks upset Muhammad Ali to win the lineal heavyweight championship in February 1978. By generating ratings as high as it did, the hope among those involved in the promotion and production of the telecast is that it’ll entice network television executives to buy boxing programming on a regular basis for free TV.
The 28-year-old Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC), of Clearwater, Florida, built a lead early in their 12-round fight. Though Thurman admittedly moved around in the final few rounds because he was certain he was winning the fight, it nearly cost him.
Philadelphia’s Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) won the fight one the scorecard of judge Kevin Morgan (115-113). Judges John McKaie (116-112) and Joe Pasquale (115-113) scored the fight for Thurman, however, which enabled him to defend his WBA world welterweight title and take Garcia’s WBC world welterweight championship.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.