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Canelo vs. Kirkland averages 2.1 million viewers in HBO's highest rated fight since 2006

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Canelo Alvarez's return to HBO was a big hit with television viewers.

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One week after Mayweather vs. Pacquiao annihilated pay-per-view and gate records, Saul Alvarez vs. James Kirkland became one of the most watched cable TV boxing matches in the past decade. Canelo's 3rd round KO over Kirkland was seen by more than 31,000 fans at Minute Maid Park in Houston, and an additional 2.1 million viewers per HBO officials. The main event peaked at just under 2.3 million. It's a number the premium subscription network (and cable TV* in general) hasn't seen since 2006, when Bernard Hopkins beat Antonio Tarver and Jermain Taylor drew Winky Wright in a middleweight doubleheader.

While the replay of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao (which averaged 1.18 million) was no doubt helpful to the final rating, this really hammers home what a major draw Canelo is. Kirkland wasn't his most notable opponent and this was a non-title fight, yet it produced what is surely going to remain boxing's best cable rating of 2015. The previous high for this year was actually achieved on April 25th when Wladimir Klitschko vs. Michael Jennings averaged 1.3 million and peaked at 1.7 million.

It's more than likely that Canelo's next several fights will anchor HBO's pay-per-views down the line, and if he continues to dazzle fans and expand his already large and predominantly Mexican fanbase, he will be boxing's unquestioned top draw after Mayweather and Pacquiao hang up their gloves.

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* - Cable TV would include the likes of ESPN, HBO, and Showtime and exclude over-the-air networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX, which would otherwise be "free" through purchasing a digital antenna.