Fightful Boxing Newsletter (4/25): TV Viewership Numbers, Jarrell Miller, Crawford vs. Khan

1. Quick Look At Boxing Viewership Numbers:

A year ago, boxing was in a completely different place in regards to broadcasting in the United States. HBO was still in the boxing business, pay-per-view shows were becoming less common, ESPN+ was in its absolute infancy and DAZN wouldn’t be released to the American public for another five months.

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A number of things has changed since then, including Premier Boxing Champion being a more important fixture on Fox programming since the two sides revamped their deal last year. So far, the new deal has worked wonders for PBC as every show televised on Fox has beaten the competition in viewership and ratings in every single show, drawing in at least a million viewers on average.

Average viewership and ratings for the last 5 PBC on Fox cards:

  • April 20, 2019: 1.082 million (0.71 rating)
  • March 9, 2019: 1.628 million (1.06 rating)
  • Feb. 16, 2019: 1.376 million (0.90 rating)
  • Jan. 26, 2019: 1.98 million (1.27 rating)
  • Dec. 22, 2018: 1.971 million (1.26 rating)

For comparison, here are the viewership and ratings for the last 5 Top Rank on ESPN shows as the Top Rank shows are the biggest non-PBC boxing competition on television:

  • March 30, 2019: 655,000 (0.43 rating)
  • March 23, 2019: 469,000 (0.32 rating)
  • Feb. 15, 2019: 704,000 (0.48 rating)
  • Feb. 10, 2019: 655,000 (0.44 rating)
  • Feb. 2, 2019: 880,000 (0.57 rating)

There are a few takeaways from these numbers for each of these networks. For Fox, one thing to notice is the significant drop in viewership after football season ended. The extra advertisement from Fox during late season football games and playoff games helped pushed the first two shows under the new deal right near two million on average. Once the Super Bowl ended in early February, the viewership has only topped 1.4 million and beyond on average just once.

Another thing to take away from the Fox numbers is that matchups don’t really matter all too much when it comes to drawing the highest ratings. In all honesty, none of the matchups were particularly very attractive in terms of drawing in a huge casual audience to watch. Out of the five main events, you can make a case that Shawn Porter vs. Yordenis Ugas was the most competitive on paper and even then, that wasn’t something that most non-hardcore fans will go out of their way to watch. Unless you are a top television draw, you’re not going to see tremendously high ratings regardless of the network without a strong marketing campaign.

DAZN doesn’t release subscribers count to the public, but a recent article does state that the streaming service’s goal is to have one million subscribers and looking at the Google Trend table above, you can tell that DAZN's search history is right between Top Rank and PBC. It's a good indication that some people are paying attention, but getting to one million by May 4 seems to be too tall an order for the streaming service.

If one were to correlate the Google Trends numbers to potential subscribers (which would be the absolute best case scenario), one could potentially see DAZN be at around 800,000 subscribers when Cinco De Mayo comes and goes. Even then, that still seems like too much, but mainly it has to do with the unknown factors at play and no real discernible evidence of how many people subscribe to DAZN.

But when one compares DAZN to ESPN+, the other big streaming platform that also broadcasts, boxing, DAZN is clearly dwarfed by subscriber count and online traffic. DAZN doesn't have the benefit of being back by an established worldwide brand such as ESPN and offers a lot more big sports other than boxing, which is DAZN's selling point. Given that online traffic for ESPN+ is roughly 70 times more than DAZN, it would be likely that the subscriber could stand in the low six figures as of now.

Should DAZN prove that streaming services work as a driving force for boxing in 2019, they will have to improve upon its content when it comes to big names. It's not enough to simply have the big stars on your broadcast platform, but having them fight each other and in compelling fights is what will drive people to subscribe. That's why the May 4 show in Las Vegas is so important for DAZN. Not because it's Canelo Alvarez fighting in the main event, but also it's Alvarez facing arguably the toughest opponent out there for the unified middleweight champion today in Daniel Jacobs. Such a fight is a guaranteed sell for new subscribers on DAZN, but the key will be getting to retain those new subscribers. 2019 is a make-or-break year for streaming boxing and if it proves to be a success, this could be the way most big fights are going to be handled in the future.

2. Jarrell Miller Fails Drug Tests, Heavyweight Title Shot Over

Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s U.S. debut took a turn for the worse when it was announced that Jarrell Miller, his planned opponent for June 1, tested positive for not one, not two, but three banned substances and one of them Miller tested positive for twice.

Miller tested positive for the substances GW1516 (also known as GW501516 and Endurobol), Human Growth Hormones (HGH) and EPO from urine exams conducted in March. As a result of those exams, the New York State Athletic Commission has declined Miller a license to fight Joshua on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.

This isn’t the first time a notable heavyweight has failed a drug test before a title fight, and he will most likely not be the last, but the shocking thing about this entire situation is the extent of how much he was cheating. It’s rare for a world-class boxer to fail a drug test while preparing for his first world title challenge, but failing for three different substances is almost unprecedented.

The New York native certainly tried his best to play the heel in the buildup to the fight against Joshua, making obscene comments directed at Joshua’s mother and accusing the unbeaten champion of being on the juice without presenting any actual evidence. The press conferences were ugly, barbaric and to some, hurt the fight’s value than actually help it. The way Miller approached the buildup was similar to how Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. approached the buildup to their 2017 fight, which was also horrible, crude and filled with sophomoric nonsense. But since that fight was a commercial success, some fighters try to take that same approach believing that they will have similar success.

How ironic that it was Miller shooting himself in the foot multiple times that ended his title aspirations before he stepped into the ring.

At first, Miller, though his official social media accounts, denied the notion that he knowingly took any banned substances. After it was revealed that he tested positive for HGH, EPO and GW1516 a second time, Miller took a more direct approach in regards to a response statement and posted a one-minute video admitting to making mistakes.

"A lot can be said right now. I'm going straight to the point. I messed up. I messed up, I made a bad call. There's a lot of ways to handle a situation. I handled it wrongly and I'm paying the price for it. I missed out on a big opportunity and I'm hurting on the side. My heart is bleeding right now. I hurt my family, my friends, my team, my supporters, but I'm going to own up to it. I'm going to deal with it. I'm going to correct it and I'm going to come back better and I'm humbled by the experience. I understand how to handle certain things. I'm going to leave it as that. I love you guys and I appreciate you guys out there. Fighters, we go through a lot and I don't want to make a bad name for ourselves. It's time to do right and get right," Miller said.

The full lineup for the June 1 show is being left untouched until something can be done about the main event. The only other fight that was formally announced, less than 24 hours before the news about Miller’s failed drug tests, was a fight between Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon to crown an undisputed women’s lightweight champion.

As a co-main event, it ranks up there as one of the best in the DAZN/Matchroom Boxing USA era. Taylor is a brilliant boxer who is rarely in a boring fight, even if it is a one-sided affair (and it usually is). Persoon is undoubtedly the biggest challenger of Taylor’s career, a true top 10, arguably top five, pound-for-pound fighter in women’s boxing.

But now the biggest question becomes, ‘Who will replace Miller on June 1?’ There are a couple of names still available that could fight Joshua, but that list is getting shorter almost every day.

Initially, there were five boxers that were on promoter Eddie Hearn’s and Joshua’s watchlist that could replace Miller: Luis Ortiz, Adam Kownacki, Kubrat Pulev, Michael Hunter and Manuel Charr.

Kownacki was the first name crossed out of the list almost immediately after his team stated that they will not face Joshua and that they have a plan in place for Kownacki to fight for a world title someday. Ortiz was seriously considered, but his team refused what is being reported by Boxing Scene a $5 million payday (easily Ortiz’s biggest purse for a fight) when his team asked for $10 million. Ortiz’s manager Jay Jimenez posted on social media that they felt disrespected by Hearn’s “low ball offer” for a shot at Joshua’s WBA “Super,” WBO and IBF titles. In the cases of both Kownacki and Ortiz, the two fighters are under the assumption that they are going to get a shot at WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in the future, but in this day and age, one should never operate on assumptions and promises when it comes to a future world title opportunity as plans can easily change for better or worse.

As for the other three, Pulev was taken out of the running from the start as he is still indefinitely suspended for his unwarranted kiss on a female reporter after his win against Bogdan Dinu back on March 23. Charr, the WBA “Regular” heavyweight has claimed that he had at least some negotiations with Hearn’s team to make the fight possible, but nothing has really happened between both sides, meaning that talks fell through.

The means Michael Hunter is the one out of that initial group of five that is still available. Hunter has won four straight since losing to Oleksandr Usyk in a failed attempt at the WBO cruiserweight title years back, but has look great since making the jump to heavyweight.

There is another former world title challenger ready to challenge Joshua who is still in the running as a late entrant: Andy Ruiz Jr. Ruiz defeated Alexander Dimitrenko on a PBC on Fox card on April 20 and stated that he is ready to face Joshua if need be. Ruiz would be a fairly decent name as a replacement, given that he once challenged for the WBO heavyweight title back in 2016 when he lost a close decision against Joseph Parker.

Regardless, the next week will be crucial to figuring out who will Joshua face. His U.S. debut could go a long way to helping DAZN establish itself as a real player in the American boxing broadcast market and the June 1 show is one of their most important shows of the year.

3. Terence Crawford vs. Amir Khan Results, Review

Terence Crawford got to score a stoppage win over Amir Khan, but it came in perhaps the most unsatisfying way possible.

Early in the sixth round of their WBO welterweight title fight at Madison Square Garden, Crawford landed a left hand below the belt that left Khan unable to continue fighting. As such, Crawford was declared the winner of the fight by TKO and the 14,091 that attended the event left angry and confused over the ending of the fight. The fight headlined a Top Rank on ESPN pay-per-view card.

It was a terrible way for a fight to conclude, given how people were already a little sour on the main event to begin with. The idea that Khan was going to give Crawford a serious challenge did seem a little far-fetched and it was confirmed as such in the first round when Crawford dropped Khan. Khan looked overwhelmed at times during the fight and showed that he is no longer the elite fighter that he once was.

After the fight, Crawford and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum called out IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. to a title unification, but those call outs will fall on deaf ears. The main reason why that fight will not be made right now is because Spence fights for Al Haymon's PBC while Crawford is with Top Rank. Given that each company has broadcast deals with different networks, it's hard to imagine all sides working together to make the fight possible any time soon.

It's another instance of big fights that should be made in boxing not being possible for a number of reasons that shouldn't exist if the promoters and networks are thinking about making the best fights a reality. Part of the issue stems from the fact that Spence's affiliation with PBC gives him plenty of big names to face for years before having to worry about a fight against Crawford. Fighters such as Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Manny Pacquiao and Danny Garcia are all with PBC and those fights are much easier to pull off than one against Crawford at this present time.

Whether or not we see Crawford vs. Spence at all is a question that might take years to answer.

April 20 Top Rank Boxing results from Madison Square Garden:

Terence Crawford defeated Amir Khan by TKO, round 6 to retain the WBO Welterweight Title: Crawford started the title bout off on the right foot, dropping Khan in the first round and nearly stopped him seconds later. Afterwards, Khan managed to find his rhythm and was able to connect a series of jabs and pushed Crawford back for certain stretches of the fight. For most of the fight, however, Crawford was outboxing and overpowering the challenger and the accidental low blow ended the show after Khan said he was unable to continue fighting.

Teofimo Lopez defeated Edis Tatli by KO, round 5 to retain the NABF Lightweight Title: Tatli fights well in the first round, standing tall and landing his jabs while not letting Lopez set up his powerful punches. That soon changes in the second round as he lets his hands go and dominates the rest of the fight. Lopez hurts Tatli with a series of power shots and is nearly dropped in the eighth round, which could have been scored 10-8 in favor of Lopez. Lopez closed the deal with a straight right hand to Tatli’s body halfway through the fifth round that left Tatli gasping for air and unable to get back up by the time the referee counted to 10. Lopez said he wants to headline Madison Square Garden in July for a world title and he did tell media during fight week that it could be for the WBC lightweight title, assuming Mikey Garcia vacates the belt. An announcement on the fate of the WBC belt is expected next week.

Shakur Stevenson defeated Christopher Diaz by unanimous decision (100-90, 99-91, 98-92) to retain the IBF Intercontinental Featherweight Title and win the NABO Featherweight Title: On paper, this was probably the most evenly-matched fight on the card. In reality, we saw Stevenson dominate Diaz from start to finish. Stevenson was able to put together several three-punch combinations with ease and showed very good defensive progress against a very game Diaz. The one negative in this fight was that both men repeatedly stepped on each other’s feet and it became so bad that it was a topic of conversation on the PPV broadcast late in the fight. Stevenson now moves to 11-0 as a pro and even though he’s only 21 years old, it’s hard to not call him a contender at this point in his career. Don’t be surprised if Stevenson gets a world title opportunity within the next 12 months.

Felix Verdejo defeated Bryan Vasquez by unanimous decision (97-93, 97-93, 98-92): Verdejo outboxes a very tough Vasquez in Verdejo’s first fight at Madison Square Garden since his first pro loss last year. Verdejo had to deal with a cut under his left eye but it didn’t factor in too much into the final result. Verdejo did get rocked in the final round, but Vasquez didn’t push for a knockdown in the closing seconds and Verdejo managed to hang on for the victory, Verdejo, once a top prospect, is now looking to get back into the mix at 135 pounds and a win over Vasquez gets his career back on track. If Verdejo wins a couple of more fights this year, he could potentially be a world title contender in 2020.

Carlos Adames defeated Frank Galarza by TKO, round 4, to win the NABF and NABO Junior Middleweight Titles

Edgar Berlanga defeated Samir Barbosa by TKO, round 1

Larry Fryers defeated Dakota Polley by unanimous decision

Lawrence Newton defeated Jonathan Garza by unanimous decision

Vikas Krishan defeated Noah Kidd by unanimous decision

4. Matchroom Boxing on DAZN: Sor Rungvisai vs. Estrada 2 Preview

One of the strongest boxing cards of the year is set to take place on April 26 at The Forum in Los Angeles with two massive title fights being streamed on DAZN.

In the main event, the much-anticipated rematch between WBC super flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada will happen 14 months after their incredible fight which took place at the same venue.

The rematch between Sor Rungvisai and Estrada has been one of the most requested fights in boxing since the two fought in February 2018. Sor Rungvisai won the first encounter by majority decision in a fight that ended up being named one of Fightful's top boxing fights of 2018. The WBC ordered a rematch between the two, but such a fight never happened throughout last year.

Sor Rungvisai, who signed with Matchroom Boxing and DAZN in late January, won the WBC title in March 2017 with a win over Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez and has made three successful title defenses since then. Estrada last fought in September 2018 in the main event of HBO's "SuperFly 3" card from California, defeating Felipe Orucuta by unanimous decision.

The co-main event is a super bantamweight title unification between Daniel Roman and TJ Doheny for the WBA and IBF championships. The fight between Roman and Doheny has been built up since January when Doheny signed a deal with Matchroom Boxing. When Doheny signed with Matchroom Boxing, promoter Eddie Hearn stated that his intention is to have the two boxers unify the WBA and IBF titles this spring. Roman and Doheny have each defended their titles on Matchroom Boxing cards streamed on DAZN in the past few months.

Below is the full card:

  • Srisaket Sor Rungvisai vs. Juan Francisco Estrada: WBC Super Flyweight Title
  • Daniel Roman vs. TJ Doheny: WBA and IBF Super Bantamweight Title Unification
  • Jessie Vargas vs. Ronny Rios
  • Anthony Sims Jr. vs. Vaughn Alexander
  • Shakhram Giyasov vs. Emanuel Taylor
  • Ronny Rios vs. Daniel Olea
  • Alberto Ezequiel Melian vs. Isaac Zarate
  • Murodjon Akhmadaliev vs. Carlos Carlson
  • Diego Pacheco vs. Guillermo Maldonado
  • Austin Williams vs. Joel Guevara
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