- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The exciting welterweight fight between Timothy Bradley Jr. and Jessie Vargas on Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, averaged 1.121 million viewers for the live airing on HBO, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The fight peaked at 1.228 million viewers, who saw Bradley win a unanimous decision and a vacant interim belt after surviving a near-knockdown in the final seconds in the 12th round, which was cut short by seven seconds when referee Pat Russell stopped the bout prematurely after mistaking the 10-second clapper for the final bell.
Bradley-Vargas was the ninth-most watched fight on premium cable this year and represented a 16 percent increase over viewership from Bradley’s last fight against Diego Chaves, which averaged 966,000 viewers on HBO in December.
The featherweight bout between hot prospect Oscar Valdez and Ruben Tamayo, a late addition to the telecast, averaged 826,000 viewers, peaking at 916,000.
With the year half over, HBO owns nine of the top 10 most-watched fights on premium cable in 2015:
1. Canelo Alvarez-James Kirkland (2.146 million on May 9, HBO)
2. Wladimir Klitschko-Bryant Jennings (1.637 million on April 25, HBO)
3. Miguel Cotto-Daniel Geale (1.589 million on June 6, HBO)
4. Gennady Golovkin-Willie Monroe Jr. (1.338 million on May 16, HBO)
5. Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado III (1.252 million on Jan. 24, HBO)
6. Lucas Matthysse-Ruslan Provodnikov (1.243 million on April 18, HBO)
7. Deontay Wilder-Bermane Stiverne (1.238 million on Jan. 17, Showtime)
8. Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal (1.152 million on March 14, HBO)
9. Timothy Bradley Jr.-Jessie Vargas (1.121 million on June 27, HBO)
10. Terence Crawford-Thomas Dulorme (1.004 million on April 18, HBO)
It appears as though boxing is on the upswing. Besides the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao mega fight setting pay-per-view buy and revenue all-time records in May and the return of regular boxing to network television in March (including in prime time on NBC, courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions), Alvarez-Kirkland, Klitschko-Jennings and Cotto-Geale all drew bigger viewership than the highest performing premium cable bout of 2014, which was Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Bryan Vera II. Their fight drew 1.390 million viewers to HBO.