Premier Boxing Champions mastermind Al Haymon’s purchase of time on NBC for a fight immediately following the network’s coverage of the Rio Olympics gold-medal basketball game, which turned out to be the United States’ victory over Serbia, paid off big time on Sunday.
Rising welterweight star Errol Spence Jr.’s brutal, sixth-round knockout of Leonard Bundu in their world title elimination bout drew an average of 4.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The bout, the only one on the one-hour telecast, peaked at 6.34 million viewers and is the highest-rated PBC fight since it kicked off in March 2015. The fight drew millions more viewers than any of the PBC fights that aired in prime time on network television.
Spence-Bundu drew the largest television audience for boxing in the United States since 2005, when NBC drew some 8 million viewers for the live finale of the first season of the reality series “The Contender.”
Before that, the largest boxing audience was the 5.9 million that Fox averaged for “Oscar De La Hoya’s Fight Night” on March 23, 1998, when then-junior middleweight titlist Yory Boy Campas defended his belt by third-round knockout of Anthony Stephens.
“I knew this would be the most important fight of my career, and the goal was to not just win but to put on a spectacular, one-sided performance," said Spence (21-0, 18 KOs), who earned a shot at the 147-pound belt held by Kell Brook. “It felt good to go out there and give everyone watching a great show, and to do it in front of such a large television audience makes it even better. Thanks to everyone who tuned in, and I promise you'll be seeing more of me soon. My time is now, and this is just the beginning."
Lou DiBella, who promoted the card at the new Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York, was thrilled with the numbers.
“Six million watching a fight is great for boxing,” DiBella said. “Millions of people were watching the basketball game and saw the electric crowd, and then when the game was over, they were taken to the fight in Coney Island to another electric crowd, and they stayed with it, and they saw a great performance from Spence. That’s a great sign for boxing. For a young superstar in the making like Spence, that’s great for him also. It’s great for the whole sport.
“Spence got a sensational knockout, and it was seen by an awful lot of people. That’s going to help everybody. It’s a win-win. Everyone involved was happy with the numbers. Of course, the fight had a great lead-in on a historical afternoon with the basketball game, but what it shows is that boxing is still attractive to a lot of people and capable of drawing major eyeballs. And then when you have a kid, Errol Spence, you don’t have to be a genius or have a high boxing IQ to know the kid is special. The kid delivered like he was supposed to, and he had a huge audience watching him do it.”