By Ed Baylor: Last Saturday’s fight between IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (62-3, 52 KO’s) and Alex Leapai (30-5-3, 24 KO’s) was a huge success on RTL free television in Germany, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN. The fight brought in 9 million viewers on the RTL network in Germany, which is an incredible number given the fact that it pitted Klitschko vs. a little know, over-matched fighter with limited height at 6’0″, and a very average resume.
The fight was sold out well ahead of time for the Koenig Pilsener Arena, Oberhausen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, and that is also almost unheard of for a mismatch of this kind.
Rafael said on his twitter: “Klitschko-Leapai was a soldout arena about 3 weeks before the fight. And did 9M viewers on free German network RTL. When Klitschko pulls those kind of numbers on German TV AND sells out arenas and stadiums why should he fight elsewhere? German TV audience 4 Klitschko-Leapai was reportedly almost 9M. To compare, most viewers for US TV fight in ’13 was about 1.5M for HBO show.”
If Wladimir is able to put in numbers like this against a very mediocre heavyweight like Leapai, it tells you that there’s really no point in Wladimir leaving Germany to fight anywhere else because he’s not likely going to be able to sellout an arena like he does in Germany if he chooses to fight in place like the U.S. Boxing fans are very particular about the fights they decide on seeing, and they’re not going to show up in huge numbers to watch a perceived mismatch like the one we saw last Saturday night between Wladimir and Leapai. ESPN hasn’t revealed what the ratings were for the Klitschko vs. Leapai fight were in the U.S, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were less than spectacular.
It’s pretty incredible that 9 million German fans were interested in watching Wladimir fight Leapai, because as Rafael said, the most viewers that a highly popular network like HBO received in 2013 for a boxing event was just 1.5 million viewers. I’m not sure why that boxing fans in the U.S don’t show as much interest for boxing events, but it could be due to the competing sports like baseball, football, hockey and basketball soaking up a lot of the fans’ interest over there.