American fight fans clearly are still interested in the heavyweight division despite the total domination of champion Wladimir Klitschko, who has not been seriously challenged in nearly a decade as champion.
Even though Klitschko, of Ukraine, lives in the United States, he has made his career fighting out of Germany, where he is a major star. But Saturday's bout, his first fight in the United States since winning a 2008 unification fight, was an event and the television viewership showed it.
Klitschko’s one-sided decision win against then-unbeaten Philadelphia challenger Bryant Jennings last Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York not only drew a raucous near sellout crowd of 17,056 but the biggest cable television audience for a fight card since 2012.
According to Nielsen Media Research, HBO averaged 1.637 million viewers for the live airing, peaking at 1.742 million. That is, by far, the most viewed cable fight this year and the most viewed fight on HBO in years.
“Wladimir’s dominant performance inside the ring in addition to the sensational ticket sales and extraordinary TV ratings demonstrate his continued popularity in the United States in his first fight here since 2008,” said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions. “This was one of boxing’s most successful promotions on all levels in recent years and we’re very happy that Wladimir’s return to the United States was so well received.”
In the opening bout, welterweight Sadam Ali’s hard-fought 10-round decision against Francisco Santana averaged 1 million viewers, peaking at 1.134 million.
The entire HBO telecast averaged 1.3 million viewers, the most-watched HBO card since June 2012.
In defeating Jennings (19-1, 10 KOs), Klitschko (64-3, 54 KOs), champion for nine years (second-longest tenure in heavyweight history) retained his title for the 18th consecutive time, the third-longest streak in heavyweight history.