Everything that could have gone wrong for Top Rank on its second boxing broadcast on ESPN on Saturday, which featured Vasyl Lomachenko’s virtuoso performance in a seventh-round knockout of Miguel Marriaga in the main event, did go wrong.
The fight was supposed to be on ESPN, but it began on ESPN2 when the NFL Hall of Fame ceremony went over its time slot by one hour, 45 minutes. It’s never great for a television event when it switches networks at the last minute, but Top Rank still delivered a solid performance.
It actually defeated the NFL Hall of Fame ceremony in average overall viewers. The Hall of Fame ceremony, which began on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, averaged 697,000 viewers and did a 0.2 share. For just the portion of the boxing which aired on ESPN, which was from 11:45 p.m. ET to 12:57 a.m. ET, Top Rank averaged 728,000 viewers. It also had 289,000 viewers on ESPN2 from 10:26 p.m. ET to 12:01 a.m. ET.
The Top Rank boxing broadcast was scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET, so for 26 minutes, or until ESPN executives made the call to put the fight on ESPN2 until the Hall of Fame ceremony ended, it was only available on the ESPN app online. It is impossible to know how many fans turned on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET to watch the fight, didn’t get it and then didn’t watch at all.
But for its second consecutive show, Top Rank also surprisingly did well in the younger audience. Though UFC Fight Night 114 from Mexico City, which aired on Fox Sports 1 from 10 p.m. ET to 1:08 a.m. ET, on Saturday, outdrew it in average audience by 859,000 to 728,000, boxing scored big in the younger demographics.
Top Rank attracted more viewers in the coveted 18-34- and 18-49-year-old demographics than the UFC Fight Night card. Top Rank had an edge, 178,000 to 169,000, among 18-34-year-olds and had an edge of 407,000 to 398,000 among 18-49-year-olds. That does not count the 18-34s and 18-49s who watched on ESPN2. On ESPN2, Top Rank drew 167,000 18-49-year-olds and 88,000 in the 18-to-34-year-old demographic.
To top MMA in those demographics is massive for boxing, which has been trying to shed the notion that its audience is comprised almost entirely of men 55 and older. UFC surprisingly had more 55 and older viewers than the Lomachenko-Marriaga card on ESPN. The UFC Fight Night card had 300,000 viewers 55 and older while Top Rank had 223,000 on ESPN and 94,000 on ESPN2.
So while the Lomachenko-Marriaga card wasn’t the home run that Top Rank’s first offering on ESPN was, a July bout between Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn that peaked at 4.4 million viewers and averaged 2.8 million viewers, it did more than hold its own considering the bad luck that surrounded it.