- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Former junior middleweight Canelo Alvarez is a superstar.
Besides drawing a passionate crowd of 31,588 to Minute Maid Park in Houston on Saturday night for his three-round shootout with James Kirkland -- in which Alvarez scored three knockdowns, including a fight-finishing knockout of the year contender in the third round -- television viewers flocked to HBO to watch the live, first-time airing of the bout like they haven’t done in years.
According to Nielsen Media Research, the bout drew an average audience of 2.146 million viewers (peaking at 2.296 million viewers). That is the most viewed HBO fight since 2006, when the replay of the Bernard Hopkins-Antonio Tarver light heavyweight title fight, which originally aired on HBO PPV, debuted to an average audience of 2.460 million viewers.
Alvarez-Kirkland was likely helped by HBO’s first replay of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao pay-per-view fight from the week before. Specific numbers for the viewership of the replay were not readily available.
The fight with Kirkland was the first for Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs), 24, of Mexico, on his exclusive contract with HBO and his first as the headliner on the network’s “World Championship Boxing” series.
“With more than 31,000 people coming to Minute Maid Park and more than 2.1 million tuning in to watch on HBO, Canelo Alvarez is quickly making the leap from the biggest boxing star of the future, to the biggest boxing star of the present,” said Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez’s promoter. “Given his sizzling, fan-friendly performance in knocking out James Kirkland, attendance and viewership will only continue to soar. Boxing's future is now.”
The viewership continued a strong run by HBO. Just two weeks earlier, heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko returned to the United States to fight for the first time since 2008 and routed Bryant Jennings, a fight for which he drew an average of 1.637 million viewers, the biggest cable television audience for a fight card since 2012 -- until Alvarez-Kirkland.
The week before Klitschko-Jennings, the Lucas Matthysse-Ruslan Provodnikov junior welterweight collision -- the leading candidate for 2015 fight of the year at this point -- averaged 1.243 million viewers on HBO.
Junior middleweight Canelo Alvarez's impressive stoppage of James Kirkland this past Saturday drew an average audience of 2.146 million viewers.