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Hopkins-Kovalev a viewership hit

Despite starting at about midnight on the East Coast, Saturday night’s light heavyweight title unification fight between Bernard Hopkins, one of boxing’s most well-known fighters, and Sergey Kovalev, one of the sport’s fastest rising stars, still delivered a strong viewership number.

The bout averaged 1.328 million viewers for HBO’s live first-time airing, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That has to be music to the executives' ears, as it ranks as the second-most viewed fight in the United States in 2014, with little remaining on the schedule that would appear capable of threatening the mark. Only the rematch between super middleweights Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera had more viewers, averaging 1.390 for the fight on March 1.

Hopkins-Kovalev peaked at 1.397 million viewers, who saw Kovalev score a first-round knockdown and win a shutout decision against the 49-year-old legend to unify three 175-pound title belts.

The fight made a big leap from an audience tuned in for the opening bout of the telecast, a welterweight scrap between Sadam Ali and Luis Carlos Abregu, which averaged 882,000 viewers. Ali won by ninth-round knockout.

HBO has televised the top 13 most-watched fights of the year in the United States.