<
>

Ward-Barrera averages 1.064 million viewers

Andre Ward's victory over Sullivan Barrera drew good viewership on Saturday night. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Former super middleweight champion Andre Ward’s lopsided decision win against Sullivan Barrera on Saturday night, Ward’s first fight in nine months and his first as a full-fledged light heavyweight, averaged 1.064 million viewers on HBO, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The fight, Ward’s first on HBO since November 2013, peaked at 1.152 million viewers for the live airing.

Ward is on track for a major fall HBO PPV fight against unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev, who was ringside at Oracle Arena in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, California. In January, Kovalev averaged 1.179 million viewers for his seventh-round destruction of former champion Jean Pascal.

Kovalev is due to fight again in June -- date, opponent and location are to be determined -- and Ward may also fight once more before they meet each other. The question is can they draw even larger audiences for those bouts and then convince fans to buy the big one on pay-per-view?

Ward-Barrera was on against the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight games, which averaged 11.6 million viewers on CBS.

Although Ward has been out of action for quite some time -- the fight was only his fourth since the end of 2011 -- he topped the viewership for HBO’s Feb. 27 card headlined by junior welterweight titlist Terence Crawford’s defense against Hank Lundy, which averaged 982,000 viewers.

Saturday night’s co-feature, featherweight prospect Joseph Diaz’s entertaining rout of Jayson Velez, averaged 756,000 viewers and peaked at 875,000 viewers. Diaz, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, was making his HBO debut.