Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn would’ve done atrocious numbers on pay-per-view, but how well did the fight fare on ESPN? Not bad considering television rights were only confirmed two weeks ago, and Jeff Horn did not have any household name value in the United States. Here’s the official press release from the network on Tuesday.
ESPN’s live telecast Saturday, July 1, of the “Battle of Brisbane” (10 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET) averaged a total live audience (television and streaming) of 3.1 million viewers across the ESPN and ESPN Deportes networks, according to Fast National ratings from Nielsen. It was the highest-rated and most-watched boxing telecast on cable television since 2006 and ESPN’s highest-rated boxing telecast since 1995.
The WBO World Welterweight Championship main event between Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs), the Filipino legend and boxing’s only eight-division world champion, against undefeated No. 1 contender and Brisbane’s favorite son Jeff “The Hornet” Horn (17-0-1, 11 KOs) (12 midnight to 1 a.m. ET) peaked during the final half hour of their fight with 4.4 million viewers across both networks. Horn defeated Pacquiao by a controversial unanimous decision.
On ESPN, the telecast averaged a 1.6 household rating and 2,812,000 viewers, making it the highest-rated and most-watched boxing telecast on cable TV since 2006. Carlos Baldomir vs. Arturo Gatti on HBO on July 22, 2006, earned a 1.6 household rating.
“The Battle of Brisbane” was also the highest-rated boxing telecast on ESPN’s networks since 1995. Danell Nicholson vs. Darren Hayden on ESPN, on December 21, 1995 earned a 1.7 household rating.
Horn defeated Pacquiao by controversial unanimous decision to win the WBO welterweight title in front of a crowd of 51,072 at Suncorp Stadium in Australia. It’s expected that this fight will have exceeded the Australian PPV record of 200,000 buys, set by 42-year-old Anthony Mundine and 44-year-old Danny Green in their rematch which took place in February. (Yeah, I can’t believe that’s the record, either.)
The distinction made in the press release is “cable television,” which would include the likes of ESPN, FS1, NBCSN, etc. and exclude over-the-air networks such as CBS, FOX, ABC, and NBC. In fact, the most-watched boxing match of 2017 is Keith Thurman’s win over Danny Garcia on CBS, with the March bout peaking at 5.1 million.
This fight represents the beginning of Top Rank Boxing’s new television deal with ESPN, which will include several live fight cards through 2018. Up next for them is an August 5th tilt featuring Vasyl Lomachenko defending his WBO junior lightweight title against Miguel Marriaga. There’s surely no way Lomachenko against a heavy underdog will draw as well as Pacquiao-Horn, but it’ll be interesting to see how they market Lomachenko as possibly boxing’s pound-for-pound best. August 19th will see Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo unify all four major junior welterweight titles.
Ideally, future main events are paced better and won’t have a midnight ET start time.