Looks like HBO's pursuit of Andre Ward paid off. The Oakland boxer last fought on HBO six years ago, and his return to the cabler paid off with some solid numbers. According to Nielsen, the Sept. 8 main event bout of Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson delivered an audience of 1.3 million HBO viewers for the live, first time airing of the fight.
That continues HBO's streak of generating more than one million viewers for each of its World Championship Boxing main event fights (live, first-time airing) in 2012.
If you're into the head to head stuff, you might be interested that HBO's audience for Ward-Dawson nearly quadrupled (+287%) the viewership of Showtime’s Championship Boxing from 10PM-10:45PM (344,000 viewers) on Saturday. Showtime had a solid main event, Lucas Matthysse-Ajose Olusegun, but were plagued by the late plug-pulling of the original mainer, Devon Alexander-Randall Bailey, because of a Bailey injury. Showtime has to be happy that Matthysse's buzz kicked up a notch, I'd venture to say.
I've enjoyed the recent block programming that we've come to expect on HBO, with docu-mercials and such coming on after bouts. On Saturday night, according to Nielsen, HBO reached 2.8 million boxing fans with the WCB live event, the Martinez-Chavez 24/7 installment No. 2, Max Kellerman's Face Off and the JCC Jr 2 Days. (You guys know I'm an unabashed fan of Jim Lampley's “Fight Game.” For the record, his third episode debuts on Sept. 22, at 10:45 PM ET. The episode focuses on the dueling 9-15 cards: How did it happen? Who won and who lost? And what does it tell us about boxing?)
The premiere audience for “24/7” last Saturday (747,000 viewers) marked the fifth most watched episode of the series in its five-year history. That stat struck me, considering there was neither a Mayweather nor a Pacquiao attached. This should make those worriers who worry that the sport will drop off a cliff when “Money” and Manny exit breathe easier; this is what boxing does…new stars are born, the old leave, the new rise up and make their mark.
I'm not a numbers-obsessed crazed guy, but I must note that this was a successful, it seems to me, roll of the dice with Ward. Many wondered if his style would ever excite and ignite, many opined that the style clash would result in a dud, but damned if Ward didn't answer the critics, and show some pitbull. The Ward bandwagon is standing room only now, and folks that scoffed at me last year when I wondered about a Andre Ward-Floyd Mayweather fight don't dismiss it as readily now, because many of those same folks have Ward as No. 1 on their pound for pound list. Could “Money” ever make the leap to Ward territory? Likely not, as jumping up twenty pounds in a year is a lot to ask, even for Floyd. But hey, this is the theatre of the unexpected, right? Many folks say they want Ward to fight the winner of the Saturday clash between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez, and just today, Team Martinez indicated they'd do that, but only if Ward went to 160. Many fight fans expressed interest in seeing Gennady Golovkin do as he said he'd be willing to do, head up from 160 to 168, to Mr Ward's neighborhood, to see if his power came with him.
Readers, weigh in…what should Ward do next?