Last Saturday’s Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia welterweight unification bout on CBS proved to be a huge ratings success by boxing standards, peaking at 5.1 million viewers (the second largest TV audience for boxing since 1998 and just behind last August’s 6 million who tuned in to see the Errol Spence Jr.-Leonard Bundu bout on NBC.)
The entire CBS telecast, which featured an undercard bout pitting junior middleweight prospect Erickson Lubin against Mexico’s Jorge Coda, averaged 3.1 million viewers while the main event, alone, averaged 3.74 million viewers (up 19% from Thurman’s June bout on CBS against Shawn Porter). It should also be noted that the Premier Boxing Champions broadcast smashed the competing NBA game on ABC which featured the L.A. Clippers vs. Chicago Bulls and drew an average audience of 1.7 million).
Although the fight, itself, didn’t live up to expectations, the ratings can only be viewed as a success. The huge numbers serve as a testament to the fact that a well-matched, properly promoted bout can still stimulate fan interest and produce big numbers. In a lot of ways, Thurman-Garcia’s 5.1 million peak is more impressive than the Spence-Bundu 6 million tally, which was inflated by the telecast’s placement immediately following the USA men’s gold medal basketball game at the Rio Olympics.
The fact that the bout was a dud, with a cautious Thurman not doing much in his split decision victory against a disappointingly passive Garcia, is a negative to the good news of today’s ratings. It’s hard to imagine the sport gaining much momentum from this showing, despite the big numbers. But, at the very least, it shows network executives that the potential for big money bouts without a Mayweather or Pacquiao on the bill is there.