Boxing Looking To Recover But Not Going To Be Easy

By Rich Mancuso/ Sports Editor


You ask the promoters, fighters, trainers. And to those involved in boxing there is a lot at risk. They have been waiting and with patience. They anticipate a healthy return for the sport that has been shutdown since the outbreak of COVID-19.

But to many, and with Top Rank, the first of the major promoters to return next week with a series of ESPN platform shows, there is a mixed feeling.

Boxing won’t be the same at least  for the immediate future. The next few months will tell the story. It will be a test as gyms reopen with strict medical protocols of social distancing, face masks as a requirement, and sanitizing of equipment.

And don’t  expect those major title fights that were planned this year. Top Rank will limit the ESPN shows to a minimum of four fights and ESPN will pick up most of the costs to get the sport moving.

Shakur Stevenson will not defend his WBO featherweight title against Felix Caraballo next Saturday evening at the MGM Grand Hotel, the ballroom and not the arena with no ticket sales.

And no fans at boxing events, a key part of revenue, that will be the normal for the time as Top Rank gets a jump on resuming boxing for those fight starved fans.

Limited personnel on site, no entourages, two in a corner, judges at ringside separated with partitions, announcing crew schedule to call fights from a remorse studio will be the new norm and temperature checks. 

And the fighters in quarantine. They will be administered coronavirus testing before, at the weigh-ins, and after they fight. Sounds ludicrous, but it has to be done and all the protocols were approved by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Other states, those that are partially in this Phase 1 plan, have not moved onto the next step. With the exception of New York, New Jersey, and California, the other athletic control boards and commissions are much slower to move things as fast as promoters would want.

In addition, they don’t have the ample means to put proper medical protocols in place. So, we are talking here about that heavy roster of fighters that may not be allowed to enter the ring anytime soon, and they depend on that income. 

The others, PBC, Matchroom, Golden Boy, have nothing set in stone for a return though all types of talk that Matchroom will promote in the UK, Golden Boy is planning events in July in California  at close door venues. 

Will this work? Will the sport survive a limited return and await further word about a return to normalcy as promoters have lost a ton of revenue during this global pandemic?

And more so, as this pandemic continues, promoters itching to return will have to make adjustments. They have to work together with the competition and that means fighters also will have a give and take type of attitude.

That means, fighters taking less money as purses will not include that all and important gate revenue that will not exist. 

After speaking with those involved at Top Rank, PBC, and Matchroom, the elite fighters on their rosters will need to make an adjustment with their scheduled number of fights. They will also need to take the pay cuts.

And  the pay-per-view spectacular will take some time to organize. A  global pandemic will do that with health protocols one thing and the unlikely ability of cable providers willing to go with a minimal fee.

Of course, pay per view has always generated significant revenue for a major fight, Take into consideration that the public also has suffered from financial hardship with a significant unemployment rate and trying to make ends meet.

So, boxing will not be normal with this limited return. Oh, the fighters are always ready. Gym closures or not, they have found a way to keep the skills sharp with training at home. Many have been posting on social media and training at unknown locations. 

But one local fighter in the New York area,  who depends on boxing as his livelihood said, “I will need to take a job. There are no shows that have me in the plan.”

He, like many, is not alone and has depended on the regional promoters that put on boxing cards three or four times a year. Those promoters  have been quiet and could not be reached for comment. 

Yes, we are thriving to see the sport. We want to see live boxing. But it won’t be normal. Realize , of course, it will be boxing that we want when Top Rank resumes that limited action next week with the first of two shows in the span of four days. 

Stay tuned and be well.

Comment:  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

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