by David P. Greisman
The best fights of the year are almost never the most-watched ones. Those who tuned into HBO this past Saturday night were fortunate to see a delightful brawl between junior lightweight titleholder Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido, which ended as an entertaining and acceptable draw.
An average of 833,000 viewers watched the main event, according to Nielsen Media Research. The audience peaked at 954,000 viewers.
The opening bout on the broadcast, featuring Abraham Lopez picking up a controversial decision over fellow featherweight prospect Julian Ramirez, averaged 649,000 viewers and peaked at 693,000.
That makes Vargas-Salido the most watched “Boxing After Dark” main event of 2016. Then again, that’s a small sample size. The only other one this year was heavyweight contender Luis Ortiz’s stoppage of Tony Thompson, which averaged 740,000 viewers and peaked at 807,000.
But otherwise, Vargas-Salido ranks fifth out of the six live, non-pay-per-view boxing broadcasts from HBO so far in 2015. The other four were branded as “World Championship Boxing” episodes:
At the top is Gennady Golovkin’s win over Dominic Wade in April, which averaged 1.325 million viewers and peaked at 1.388 million.
Then comes Sergey Kovalev’s rematch stoppage of Jean Pascal in January, which averaged 1.179 million viewers and peaked at 1.269 million.
In third place for the network is Andre Ward’s victory over Sullivan Barrera in March, which averaged 1.064 million and peaked at 1.152 million.
And in fourth was Terence Crawford’s technical knockout of Henry Lundy in February, which averaged 982,000 viewers and peaked at 1.071 million.
HBO aired Manny Pacquiao’s third fight with Timothy Bradley and Canelo Alvarez’s one-punch knockout of Amir Khan live on pay-per-view in April and May, respectively.
This was Vargas’ first time appearing live on normal HBO. He’d come from behind to stop Takashi Miura and win a world title on the undercard of last November’s Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez pay-per-view. Salido was last seen on HBO in March 2014, when he won a split decision over Vasyl Lomachenko.
Neither Lopez nor Ramirez had appeared on HBO before.
Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]