Crawford-Beltran ratings disappoint

Lightweight titleholder Terence Crawford may have put the cherry on top of a fighter of the year campaign with his one-sided romp over top challenger Raymundo Beltran on Saturday night. It’s just a shame the fight did not draw a big audience, and I believe part of the reason is because of HBO’s decision to begin the fight so late.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the fight averaged 836,000 viewers for the live, first-time airing, peaking at 936,000 viewers; the 836,000 number is a 7 percent decline from this year’s average for a “Boxing After Dark” main event, which is 898,000 viewers.

The co-feature, featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich’s draw with Jayson Velez, actually drew more viewers, which is highly unusual. It averaged 865,000 viewers and peaked at 1.033 million.

The replay of the previous week’s Manny Pacquiao-Chris Algieri HBO PPV main event opened the broadcast and averaged 904,000 viewers, with a peak of 1.120 million viewers.

One reason for the relatively weak performance of the telecast probably is the fact that much of the show was aired opposite the Alabama-Auburn game, which drew 13.529 million viewers, making it the most-watched college football game in ESPN history.

But I believe another reason for Crawford’s weak number is because the fight started too darn late. It did not begin until after midnight on the East Coast, which I find to be unacceptable. And it wouldn’t have helped to be on the West Coast, because it aired on tape delay (although some cable systems offer an East Coast feed).

The late start times are a problem, in my view. The Pacquiao-Algieri fight -- that cost people about $70 for the PPV -- also did not begin until well after midnight on the East Coast. The Sergey Kovalev-Bernard Hopkins light heavyweight unification fight on Nov. 8 also began well after midnight. It used to happen once in a while. Now it seems to be happening far too often.

There are probably lots of people who would like to watch these fights, but they wind up dozing off or not even making the effort to watch because the fights are on too late. How, by the way, can anyone expect boxing’s fan base to grow when an event starts so late? How many kids or teens do you figure saw any of the three fights last week? Very few, in my opinion.

One suggestion that I believe would have helped this past Saturday’s three-fight telecast, which began at 10 p.m. ET/PT: Open the show with Gradovich-Velez, and then go to the Crawford-Beltran main event. And then show Pacquiao-Algieri, a fight that was seven days old that everyone already knew was a one-sided blowout lacking any semblance of drama. Those who really want to watch it can see it after midnight, while the audience looking for a live fight would have seen Crawford-Beltran right around 11 p.m.

Showtime has recognized that late start times are an issue and, to its credit, made a change for Floyd Mayweather’s rematch with Marcos Maidana in September. It started the pay-per-view broadcast at 8 p.m. ET instead of the traditional 9 p.m., which meant the main event was in the ring at a reasonable hour. The one-hour tweak was appreciated by many fans I heard from.

HBO needs to seriously consider doing the same thing for pay-per-views and look to start its cable cards a little earlier.

Get your rest this Saturday and prepare for another late night because HBO has a nice-looking tripleheader topped by an expected action fight between middleweights David Lemieux and Gabriel Rosado. But, like last week’s three-fight broadcast, it also begins at 10 p.m. ET/PT.