Before I get into the numbers, first and foremost this past Saturday was a great night for boxing after a 2016 in which we rarely got quality fights and all too often got fights that did not live up to the hype.
Granted, 2017 is only a month old, but already there are at least four fight of the year candidates, several quality fights already scheduled across various outlets and more in the works.
This past Saturday night, Showtime put on a terrific card headlined by Leo Santa Cruz’s revenge victory against Carl Frampton to reclaim a featherweight title and Mikey Garcia’s superb performance and KO of the year candidate to win a lightweight title from Dejan Zlaticanin in the co-feature.
Going head to head with Showtime was an HBO card -- no, I do not endorse head-to-head telecasts -- that featured two terrific fights. Miguel Berchelt had a coming-out party against Francisco Vargas, who was one half of the fight of the year in 2015 and 2016, both of which were on HBO. In an exciting fight, Berchelt stopped a bloodied Vargas to win a junior lightweight title in the main event. Also on the card, former junior lightweight titlist Takashi Miura survived a spirited effort from Miguel Roman to stop him in a hellacious battle to earn a shot at Berchelt.
It was a great night for the sport.
But the numbers are in, and the numbers don’t lie. Showtime, which has a much better overall schedule in place than HBO does at the moment, pulled the upset. Even though it had the more significant card featuring bigger names, Showtime almost always loses the viewership battle to HBO when they are on opposite each other, mainly because HBO has about 30 percent more subscribers. This is basic math.
But Showtime beat HBO in viewership on Saturday for a head-to-head card for the first time since June 13, 2015, according to Showtime. It is exceedingly rare for that to happen but it did on June 13, 2015, Showtime won the night when its Deontay Wilder-Eric Molina heavyweight title bout averaged 678,000 viewers while HBO’s much lower profile main event between featherweights Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters and Miguel Marriaga averaged 588,000.
On Saturday night, according to Nielsen Media Research, Frampton-Santa Cruz II averaged 587,000 viewers (peak of 643,000) on Showtime, with Garcia-Zlaticanin averaging 544,000 and peaking at 617,000. It was one of Showtime’s most viewed cards in the past year despite being on opposite an HBO boxing telecast.
Over on HBO, Vargas-Berchelt averaged 497,000 viewers and peaked at 549,000. Miura-Roman averaged 491,000 and peaked at 552,000.
Showtime’s numbers were far more robust than they were two weeks ago for an excellent card featuring the Badou Jack-James DeGale super middleweight unification fight in the main event (a draw and very exciting fight) and the all-action junior lightweight title bout between new Gervonta Davis and Jose Pedraza. The overall telecast averaged 371,000 viewers. Jack-DeGale averaged 454,000 viewers (peak of 539,000), and Pedraza-Davis averaged 344,000 (peak of 391,000).