Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares delivers strong viewership for ESPN

Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN is on the upswing.

The third installment of Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN, headlined by the Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares featherweight title fight at Staples Center in Los Angeles, was the network’s best-performing PBC card so far.

And that should come as no surprise considering that Santa Cruz-Mares was easily the most anticipated of the three main events and, as expected, it turned out to be an enthralling action fight, one Santa Cruz won by majority decision.

The telecast, which included Julio Cesar Ceja rallying from a third-round knockdown to knock out Hugo Ruiz in the fifth round to win an interim junior featherweight belt, delivered an average of 1.217 million viewers. It was ESPN's largest boxing audience since Feb. 22, 1998, when Mark Johnson retained a flyweight world title by first-round knockout of Arthur Johnson.

The telecast was up 30 percent from the previous two PBC on ESPN cards and peaked at 1.614 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Also, the Spanish-language telecast on ESPN Deportes averaged 355,000 Hispanic viewers, making it the most-watched boxing telecast ever on the network. It peaked at 453,000 viewers.

ESPN2 will replay the Santa Cruz-Mares main event at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday.

The Aug. 1 edition of PBC on ESPN, headlined by welterweight Danny Garcia’s ninth-round knockout of Paulie Malignaggi, averaged 1.073 million viewers and peaked at 1.47 million viewers. The debut of PBC on ESPN, headlined by welterweight titlist Keith Thurman title-retaining seventh-round knockout of Luis Collazo on July 11, averaged 799,000 viewers and peaked at nearly 1.2 million viewers.