Big-time boxing on ESPN has not been part of the network’s regular programming, but based on the success of Saturday night’s vacant heavyweight title fight between Bermane Stiverne and Chris Arreola -- an exciting slugfest that Stiverne won by sixth-round knockout -- we could be seeing more in the future.
The two-hour, two-fight primetime telecast (8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET) of the card from the Galen Center in Los Angeles generated a 0.7 final household rating and averaged 940,000 viewers.
“It’s a solid rating that keeps the conversation going for the potential for higher profile fights,” ESPN boxing programmer Brian Kweder said. “There are no immediate plans to run out and buy the next big fight, but we will continue to evaluate opportunities as they come along.”
Stiverne-Arreola was the highest-rated boxing event on ESPN or ESPN2 (home of “Friday Night Fights”) since 2006 when a draw between Sultan Ibragimov and Ray Austin in a heavyweight title eliminator delivered 0.8 rating on ESPN2.
ESPN has had far fewer live fight cards than ESPN2 over the past decade-plus, but Stiverne-Arreola was the highest-rated and most-viewed live telecast on the main ESPN network since 1998.
The junior welterweight co-feature between Amir Imam and Yordenis Ugas drew a 0.6 rating and the main event delivered a 0.8 rating. The telecast peaked to a 0.9 rating near the end of the main event.