It is probably just as well considering the mundane nature of how it unfolded, but fewer viewers than usual watched the most recent boxing main event ESPN televised.
Viewership figures released by Nielsen Media Research indicated an average audience of 532,000 watched the 12-round, 140-pound championship fight between Teofimo Lopez and Jamaine Ortiz on Thursday night. ESPN’s audience for Lopez-Ortiz peaked at 584,000 toward the end of a boring bout Lopez won by unanimous decision at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.
In addition to airing on a Thursday night, Lopez-Ortiz didn’t begin until 11:39 p.m. ET, which undoubtedly impacted ESPN’s viewership.
Nielsen’s numbers only include viewers who tuned in on ESPN’s linear channel because the tracking service doesn’t have access to streaming viewers on ESPN+, which now accounts for a sizable portion of ESPN’s audience. ESPN doesn’t release viewership totals from ESPN+, either.
Nevertheless, the audience for Lopez-Ortiz was significantly lower than viewership for Lopez’s previous appearance on ESPN, a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat of former undisputed 140-pound champion Josh Taylor on June 10 in New York.
The average audience for Lopez-Taylor was 945,000 and it peaked at 980,000. The two-bout broadcast headlined by Lopez-Taylor aired on a Saturday night from The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Though their fight seemed very competitive, Ortiz (17-2-1, 8 KOs) was heavily criticized for carefully fighting off of his back foot for almost all 12 rounds. Ortiz, an orthodox boxer who approached Lopez (20-1, 13 KOs) exclusively from a southpaw stance, won five rounds apiece on the scorecards of judges Tim Cheatham (115-113) and David Sutherland (115-113), but judge Steve Weisfeld credited Ortiz for winning only three rounds (117-111).
Lopez implored Ortiz to stand and fight numerous times. A disciplined Ortiz stuck to his game plan until the final bell, though, and argued afterward that he “dominated the fight.”
The first fight of ESPN’s doubleheader Thursday night – Keyshawn Davis’ sixth-round, technical-knockout victory over Jose Pedraza – drew an average audience of 350,000 and a peak audience of 392,000.
Davis (10-0, 7 KOs, 1 NC), a 2021 Olympic silver medalist, produced the most impressive performance of his professional career in pummeling Pedraza. The 24-year-old Davis battered a bloodied Pedraza during the sixth round, which caused referee Thomas Taylor to stop their scheduled 10-round lightweight bout 1:09 into it.
Davis joined WBA lightweight champion Gervonta Davis (29-0, 27 KOs) as the only opponents who’ve stopped Pedraza (29-6-1, 14 KOs) inside the distance during his 13-year professional career. Davis defeated Pedraza by seventh-round TKO and won the IBF junior lightweight title from him in January 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.