Crawford-Brook was a ratings hit!

Saturday’s Top Rank on ESPN saw Terence Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) retain his WBO welterweight world title with a fourth-round TKO over former welterweight world champion Kell Brook, in a main event from the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.  The fight delivered big on viewership, ranking as the top boxing telecast across all TV networks since January 2019.

Top Things to Know

  • Crawford vs Brook averaged 1,758,000 viewers, making it the most viewed boxing telecast across on all TV networks since January 2019

  • The main event was also the most viewed boxing telecast on cable since December 2018 (Lomachenko vs. Pedraza on ESPN: 1,889,000)

  • The fight rating peaked during the 11:45 p.m.-12:00 a.m. ET quarter hour with 2.1 million viewers

  • Through seven Saturday night telecasts on ESPN so far this year, Top Rank on ESPN has averaged 1,033,000 viewers, up 44% from 11 Saturday night telecasts in 2019

  • Adults 18-49 are up 54% year-over-year

  • Crawford vs. Brook ranked No. 1 as the most socially engaged boxing telecast across TV over the last two years, with over 306,000 total social interactions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

  • Crawford vs. Brook had a strong performance on social media, becoming the most socially engaged telecast across TV over the last two years, with over 306,000 social interactions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

  • Lomachenko vs. Lopez and Crawford vs. Brook have been the most socially engaged boxing telecasts across TV in consecutive months over the last two years.

Source: Nielsen, Nielsen Social Content Ratings

Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank/Getty Images

Replay of Wilder-Fury 2 to air on Monday

ESPN will air the non-pay-per-view premier of the heavyweight rematch that captured the world’s attention last month. WBC and Lineal Heavyweight champion Tyson “The Gypsy” King” Fury’s masterpiece victory over Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder will debut on ESPN, Monday March 23. ESPN will air the four-fight card beginning at 8 p.m. ET, which will be preceded by a special re-air presentation of Fury  and Wilder’s disputed December 2018 draw (7 p.m. ET).

The entire Wilder-Fury II PPV broadcast will also become available for replay to all ESPN+ subscribers beginning Monday.

The Wilder-Fury II presentation will also feature the following bouts: former heavyweight world champion Charles Martin squaring off against former title challenger Gerald “El Gallo Negro” Washington in a scheduled 12-round IBF heavyweight world title eliminator, WBO junior featherweight world champion Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete, a.k.a “The Mexican Iron Man,” defending his title against Filipino contender Jeo Santisima, and super welterweight sensation Sebastian “The Towering Inferno” Fundora against 2016 Australian Olympian Daniel Lewis in a highly anticipated battle of unbeatens.

Wilder-Fury II adds to ESPN’s week of programming, which also includes an encore presentation of the Academy-Award winning 30 for 30 documentary “O.J.: Made in America.” The documentary will now shift to air over four nights in primetime from March 24-March 26. The film originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016, debuted on ABC/ESPN in June 2016, and won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards in February 2017.

ESPN+ also features a collection of some of the greatest fights in boxing history, including dozens of legendary bouts from the Top Rank Library, available on demand. The collection includes legendary heavyweight showdowns like Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier III, Ali vs. George Foreman, Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn, Mike Tyson vs. Larry Holmes, Jack Dempsey vs. Gene Tunney, Max Baer vs. James J. Braddock, Ali vs. Sonny Liston I & II, and many more.

Photo: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

Boxer Josh Taylor: ‘I’m starting this new decade with a big bang’

The 2020 forecast is in, and “The Tartan Tornado” is coming to Top Rank and ESPN.

WBA/IBF junior welterweight world champion Josh Taylor, fresh off his tour de force in the World Boxing Super Series, has signed a multi-year promotional agreement with Top Rank. Taylor, from Edinburgh, Scotland, will make his Top Rank on ESPN debut in 2020 as he continues his quest to become the undisputed junior welterweight king.

“Josh Taylor is one of the world’s best fighters, and he is a fight fan’s fighter, a tough guy willing to fight anyone we put in front of him,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Whether it’s Jose Ramirez in a fight for the undisputed junior welterweight title or any of the welterweights out there, he’s ready for the biggest challenges. I want to thank Josh’s advisors at MTK Global, who have the same goal as us, which is to make him an international star.”

“A new year, a new decade with lots of new beginnings, and I’m starting this new decade with a big bang,” Taylor said. “2019 was a huge year for me, but 2020 looks set to be even bigger and I’m delighted to have signed a deal with Top Rank and ESPN and an advisory contract with MTK Global. I believe I am with the best team to take my career to the next level. I couldn’t ask for a better partnership, and I know the future looks bright with this team lighting the way.”

Said Jamie Conlan, MTK Global’s Professional Development Coordinator: “Josh Taylor was the 2019 Fighter of the Year, winning the World Boxing Super Series in fantastic fashion with his win over Regis Prograis. Now linking up with Top Rank and MTK Global, his sights are solely set on unifying the division and becoming a global star.”

Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs), who turned pro in July 2015, soon established himself as one of Great Britain’s pugilistic prodigies, winning Commonwealth honors in October 2016 in only his seventh bout. In 2017, he knocked off fellow unbeaten prospect Ohara Davies via seventh-round stoppage and knocked out former world champion Miguel Vazquez in nine rounds.

In late 2018, following a decision win over former world champion Viktor Postol, he entered the World Boxing Super Series tournament. Taylor knocked out then-unbeaten Ryan Martin in the quarterfinals and scored a convincing decision over Ivan Baranchyk in the semifinals to win the IBF world title. Taylor authored his career-best win last October in the World Boxing Super Series championship, grinding out a majority decision over Prograis to unify titles and establish himself as a pound-for-pound player.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on Celtics’ Horford: ‘He’s been the backbone of a lot of their success'(Video)

When the season ended for the Boston Celtics, many believed that Kyrie Irving had played his last game with the team. Irving, who will be an unrestricted free agent, had reportedly been unhappy in Boston for most of the season, so him wanting out of Boston is not that much of a surprise. However, what surprised many was the report that Al Horford, who has a player option for next season, may opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. Horford is scheduled to make $30.1 million in 2019-20.

While the 33-year-old Horford may opt out of his contract, reports are that he and the Celtics could come together on a multi-year deal. However, Horford should garner a lot of interest on the open market, and according to ESPN’s Amin Elhassan, Horford could be harder to replace than Irving.

“I think he’s(Kyrie Irving) going to move on. I think the Celtics have known that he’s going to move on for quite a while,” Elhassan recently told Paul Gant. “I don’t think that was as unexpected to them as the Al Horford stuff. That’s the kick in the gut for them because you are talking about a guy who they thought they could lock in at a lower number for a few more years. Now, it looks like he’s looking to leave. He’s been the backbone of a lot of their success there. Defensively, he has been their best player, and offensively, such a high IQ player. To lose him, I think that would be difficult to replace piece for the Celtics.”

Horford, with his versatility, would be harder to replace, and losing him would hurt the team. Therefore, it’s imperative that Boston does whatever it can to keep him around.

Listen below as Elhassan talks Celtics, 76ers, Rockets, Warriors, and more:

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on Chris Paul: ‘He wears people out'(VIDEO)

Coming into the 2018-19 NBA season, the Houston Rockets were one of the favorites to win an NBA title. In 2017-18, the Rockets won 65 games and had the best record in the NBA. Houston had the Warriors down 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals, but unfortunately, Chris Paul injured his hamstring in Game 5, and ultimately, the Warriors would defeat the Rockets in 7.

Last season, it was the complete opposite. The Warriors’ Kevin Durant went out in Game 5 with an injured calf, but the Rockets still could not get past the Warriors as they lost in 6 in Western Conference semifinals.

Recently, reports surfaced that Paul and James Harden were having issues with each other and that Paul wanted out of Houston, but according to Paul, he wants to stay with the Rockets. Yesterday, according to the Houston Chronicle, Rockets GM Daryl Morey had this to say at the 3rd Annual NBA Awards:

“I think we’re going to have our starting five, plus a top-level mid-level. Maybe we’ll do better than that,” Morey said. “We’re going to be the favorites in the West, for sure. We were the best team down the stretch with that group, and that’s without adding one more quality player like we’re going to do. Most teams are scrambling to keep their starting unit together. We got ours next year.”

Also, according to the Houston Chronicle, Morey stated that the reports of Paul and Harden not getting along are false.

“That’s definitely not true,” Morey said. “It’s been the strangest part of my career with the media. There have been times we deserve terrible coverage. It’s not now. The discussion should be we are favorites next year and let people beat that up. That’s been really strange for me. It just started and kept going.

Last week, at the 12th Annual Steve Nash Foundation Showdown, ESPN’s Amin Elhassan gave his thoughts on Paul and the Rockets.

“It’s weird because Chris Paul is known to wear people out, and I’m surprised whenever people are surprised by that notion,” Elhassan told Paul Gant. “He wears people out, and so the problem for Houston is if indeed come to the point where they have to trade him: his contract, age, and injury history make it difficult to trade him for value, to get good players in return or to get good contracts in return, or to do without giving up good stuff like picks. If that happens, you gotta say to yourself, okay, does Houston have the appetite to trade him, and understand that we’re not gonna get better in the short run. It remains to be seen.”

The Rockets can do some big things in the Western Conference, especially with the Warriors possibly in transition. Because of the situation with Golden State, all the contending teams should go in big next season, and according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets are looking to go after Jimmy Butler in a possible sign-and-trade with the 76ers, so if that happens, the Rockets will definitely be a formidable team next season, and will most definitely be one of the favorites next season.

Listen to the complete interview with Elhassan below:

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan: Philly probably thinks to themselves we could have won an NBA title(VIDEO)

When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Tobias Harris before last season’s trade deadline, most believed that they had the best starting lineup in the Eastern Conference(Embiid, Harris, Butler, Redick, Simmons). The 76ers rolled through the Nets in 5 in the first round, and had the Raptors down 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, before losing at the buzzer in 7 after Kawhi Leonard’s improbable shot.

Looking back on things, if Leonard does not make that shot, and Philadelphia wins Game 7 in OT, the 76ers, and not the Raptors, could have been NBA champions. Philadelphia gave Toronto their longest and probably their toughest series, and if Philly pulls it out, they had a decent shot at beating both the Bucks and Warriors.

According to ESPN’s Amin Elhassan, the 76ers might be thinking they let one slip away.

“I think Philly, first of all, probably sits and thinks to themselves that, ‘we could have won an NBA championship. We came the closest to beating the Toronto Raptors out of all the teams that played them,”‘  Elhassan recently told Paul Gant.

With free agency right around the corner, the 76ers have to determine what they want to do with free agents Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Do they give them both max contracts or will they pick one over the other? That is a question the 76ers have to answer, according to Elhassan.

“You gotta ask yourself do you have the wherewithal, the appetite to pay both of those guys, both of those free agents,’ Elhassan said. “Tobias is younger; Jimmy is probably more versatile given his defensive ability. That’s a big question mark, and if you don’t have the appetite to pay them or at least pay them the full five years which both of them are seeking, then you to have to live with the possibility that someone is going to come in and offer them a deal that they can’t refuse.”

With Golden State in a state of flux, this is the time to go after an NBA title. Butler and Harris make the 76ers a formidable team. Plus, with the uncertainty surrounding Joel Embiid’s health, you don’t know how long your championship window will be open. Should be interesting to see how it plays out come June 30.

Listen to the complete interview with Elhassan below:

 

Crawford-Khan: ESPN PPV details

The undefeated pound-for-pound king, three-division world champion and reigning WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford will headline the inaugural Top Rank on ESPN pay-per-view broadcast against former unified super lightweight world champion Amir “King” Khan Saturday, April 20 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT from Madison Square Garden.

Crawford vs. Khan will be available via all major cable and satellite providers with a suggested retail price of $59.95 (SD) or $69.95 (HD).

All undercard bouts will air live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, beginning at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.

Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), the fighting pride of Omaha, Nebraska, unified all four super lightweight titles in August 2017 and moved up to the welterweight division intent on doing the same. In June 2018, he won the WBO welterweight title with a dominant ninth-round stoppage over Manny Pacquiao conqueror Jeff “The Hornet” Horn. Four months later, in front of a packed hometown house at the CHI Health Center Omaha, he stopped bitter rival Jose Benavidez Jr. in the 12th round.

Khan (33-4, 20 KOs), who captured an Olympic silver medal in 2004 for Great Britain at the age of 17, has long been one of boxing’s most captivating performers. He won his first world title in 2009 and has victories over Marco Antonio Barrera, Zab Judah, Marcos Maidana, Paulie Malignaggi, Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander. He is undefeated as a welterweight and is once again attempting to prove his greatness against boxing’s best.

In other action on the pay-per-view broadcast:

•    Lightweight sensation Teofimo Lopez (12-0, 10 KOs) will face former world title challenger and two-time European lightweight champion Edis Tatli (31-2, 10 KOs) in a 12-round co-feature. Lopez is ranked in the top five by all four major sanctioning organizations and is coming off a savage seventh-round knockout over Diego Magdaleno.

•    In the other co-feature attraction, Shakur Stevenson (10-0, 6 KOs), the 21-year-old featherweight phenom who earned a silver medal for the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will face former world title challenger Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz (24-1, 16 KOs) in a 10-rounder.

•    Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo (24-1, 16 KOs), one of Puerto Rico’s most popular fistic attractions, will fight former interim world champion Bryan Vasquez (37-3, 20 KOs) in a 10-round lightweight duel with potential world title implications.

CRAWFORD vs. KHAN is a 12-round fight for the WBO welterweight championship of the world, presented by Top Rank in association with Matchroom Boxing and Khan Promotions. The event is sponsored by Geico. CRAWFORD vs. KHAN will take place Saturday, April 20, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT at Madison Square Garden, and will be produced by Top Rank and ESPN and distributed live by ESPN Pay-Per-View.

Tyson Fury, Queensberry Promotions agree to co-promotional deal with Top Rank/ESPN

Tyson Fury, one of the world’s most dynamic and popular heavyweight boxers, and Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren are joining forces with Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank. The agreement will mean that Fury will be a headline part of the boxing lineup under the historic, long-term Top Rank on ESPN relationship.

Fury, the undefeated lineal heavyweight champion, will have his bouts co-promoted by Top Rank and Queensberry Promotions. The deal calls for a minimum of two bouts per year in the United States.

You wonder if this will have an impact on Wilder-Fury 2, being that Wilder is with PBC, and Fury is now with Top Rank/ESPN, but I guess, we’ll have to wait and see.

Since announcing the landmark Top Rank on ESPN agreement in 2017, and expanding it in August 2018, the comprehensive alliance has showcased blockbuster Top Rank fights and content across ESPN networks and ESPN+, the multi-sport, direct-to-consumer streaming service in the U.S.

All the parties will work closely to set and announce the details of Fury’s debut soon.

BT Sport will continue to be the television home in the United Kingdom for all of Fury’s fights.

Top Rank, Fury’s management team MTK Global and Queensberry Promotions, worked seamlessly to close the groundbreaking deal.

“Top Rank is very excited to enter into the promotional arrangement along with Queensberry Promotions for the lineal heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury,” Arum said. “He is a generational heavyweight talent at the peak of his powers. We also look forward to our growing relationship with MTK Global, which represents so many world-class fighters.”

‘I’m delighted that Frank and Queensberry Promotions have teamed up with Top Rank to promote my fights in America,” Fury said. “With ESPN and BT Sport behind me, the biggest sports platforms in the world are now linked up with the best heavyweight in the world!”

“This is a great move for Tyson Fury and a great move for Queensberry Promotions,” Warren said. “By partnering up with ESPN and Top Rank in America, we’re giving our boxers, including Tyson, the opportunity to perform on the biggest and most powerful platforms on both sides of the Atlantic and become truly global stars.”

“MTK Global are thrilled to have played a role in what can only be described as a monumental partnership, no doubt the biggest one in the boxing industry, and we’re looking forward to working more closely with the teams at Top Rank and ESPN well into the future,” said Sandra Vauaghan, CEO MTK Global.

Fury (27-0-1, 19 KOs) won the lineal heavyweight title in November 2015 with a unanimous decision over Wladimir Klitschko, who at the time had made 18 title defenses during a nearly decade-long reign. While never losing inside the ring, Fury relinquished the WBA, IBF, and WBO belts while dealing with well-documented mental health and substance abuse issues. After more than two-and-a-half years away from the ring, Fury, whose weight had ballooned to more than 400 pounds, returned in June of last year.

A pair of wins over Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta set the stage for one of the most dramatic heavyweight title matches in boxing history. Against WBC World Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder on Dec. 1 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Fury put forth a boxing masterclass and survived a hellacious 12th-round knockdown to, seemingly, do enough to defeat Wilder. The judges, however, ruled the bout a split draw. Fury, still just 30, retained his status as lineal champion and realized an against-all-odds comeback story.

 

Doc Rivers on LeBron: ‘He’s far more Magic than Michael'(VIDEO)

Ever since LeBron James entered the league in 2003, he has been compared to Michael Jordan, but in reality, if you watch LeBron’s game, it’s a lot closer to another NBA legend, Magic Johnson.  To me, James is a more athletic version of Magic.

Throughout his career, James always seemed more comfortable facilitating than scoring, and according to Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, James has always been more Magic than Michael.

Rivers discussed LeBron and Magic today on ESPN’s First Take as LeBron prepares to make his Lakers’ debut tonight on the road against the Blazers.

Listen below:

Why Paul George’s ESPN series is bad for the Lakers

Coming into the summer of 2018, it seemed like it was a foregone conclusion that Paul George was going to the Lakers. We have been hearing about George to the Lakers for past few years. Even before he was traded to OKC, you thought George would end up with the Lakers.

Now, with reports that the Lakers are concerned that George may sign elsewhere; George to the Lakers may never happen.

Here is another reason why George to L.A. may not happen. The 28-year-old George, who is a California native, has a three-part series airing on ESPN’s SportsCenter, which is documenting his free-agent decision.

The last man to have something similar was LeBron James back in 2010. James had a show titled The Decision. On this show,  which aired on ESPN, James announced his free agent decision. As we all know, James decided to leave Cleveland and take his talents to South Beach.

James took a massive beating from many different places after The Decision show. In Cleveland, his jersey was burned, and he was ripped mercilessly by players, media members, and fans alike. James, who was loved by many, became a villain.

The kind of backlash James received would not have happened if he did The Decision show and stayed in Cleveland.

“If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different,”  James said in October 2010.

George does not seem like a guy who would be comfortable being a villain, and that is what he could become if he announces he is going elsewhere on ESPN.

With that being said, don’t expect George to leave the Thunder. He saw the backlash LeBron received eight years ago. He knows what could happen when you publicly diss a franchise on national TV.

Expect Part 3 of  “Paul George: My Journey,” to end with the five-time All-Star returning to Oklahoma City.