Sergey Kovalev topped Bernard Hopkins in one of the most highly-anticipated fights of 2014 this past Saturday night, and the bout was a ratings winner for HBO, as Nielsen reports the fight peaked at 1.397 million viewers, averaging 1.328 million.
That rating makes it the second-highest rated fight of the year, behind the March 1 rematch between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Bryan Vera, which averaged 1.39 million viewers.
Matchup played a factor here, as did, without question, the network the fight was on. Hopkins has always done good TV numbers in recent years, but his April fight on Showtime came in at 760,000, meaning this was a 75% bigger audience. Beibut Shumenov was a credible opponent, but Kovalev had been much better built by HBO, and certainly was seen as a bigger threat.
Kovalev's last fight on HBO, an August 2 win over Blake Caparello, did 990,000 viewers as the second fight of a three-fight broadcast.
Saturday night's opening fight between Sadam Ali and Luis Carlos Abregu, which saw Ali score a very impressive stoppage win, came in at 882,000 viewers.