The Coronavirus pandemic crisis has changed the way lives are lived and the sport of boxing has not escaped its reach.
Fight cards featuring Shakur Stevenson, Vergil Ortiz Jr., Michael Conlan, and James Kirkland (among others) have already been cancelled or postponed. The highly-anticipated Regis Prograis-Maurice Hooker bout on April 17 has just been scrubbed as well. As of right now, all of March in boxing is pretty much guaranteed to be off and April is doubtful. Just that timeframe, alone, would impact bouts such as Jose Ramirez-Viktor Postol, Artur Beterbiev-Meng Fanlong, Joe Joyce-Daniel Dubois, David Benavidez-Roamer Alexis Angulo, Naoya Inoue-John Riel Casimero, and Sergey Kovalev-Sullivan Barrera. And if Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders on May 2 is nixed, some in the boxing business will really feel the financial squeeze.
But a case could be made that boxing shouldn’t be shutting down at all during this global emergency.
Yes, there is a health crisis at play here and government, at all levels, is pretty much universally calling for the temporary end of all things that generate crowds– sporting events, parades, Broadway plays…even bars, restaurants, and movie theaters. It all makes sense in limiting the spread of the virus.
Still, boxing could go on and a case could be made that it SHOULD go on.
Promoters could put on cards, without fans, staged in television studios or other smallish locales properly screened for safety. Test the fighters, their crews, officials, and TV people for the virus and, provided they are all clean, put on the shows as planned. It wouldn’t be too hard to make the switch from arena shows to studio shows.
There would be a loss in revenue from the live gate, but, realistically, the live gate these days represents a relatively small portion of an event’s revenue anyway. The money is all in TV rights and with every sport cancelled right now, boxing would have no problem getting a pretty penny for airtime.
Boxing, actually, is one of the few sports that could pull off this “sans-fans” model without the product suffering too much. Last Friday’s ShoBox card on Showtime performed to an empty venue at Minnesota’s Grand Casino and the product did not suffer.
Promoter Bob Arum has recently talked about putting on shows in spectator-free studios in the Las Vegas area.
“We’re gonna try to set up a studio atmosphere in Vegas, so we can do fights maybe,” Arum said during an interview on SiriusXM. “You know, ESPN, unfortunately for them, doesn’t have content. They don’t have the NBA, they don’t have college basketball, they don’t have the women’s tournament. So, they’re gonna need content. And we can provide content. We’ve talked to the athletic commission here [in Nevada], doing fights in a studio. But we’ve got to get the testing done. We’ve gotta get enough tests here, so that we can test the fighters before the fights, so we can show that they do not have the virus. Or, if they have the virus, they can’t fight. I mean, that’s what we’re working on.”
However, the most important reason for boxing to carry on with its schedule is a psychological and emotional one.
People need a distraction to keep their minds off of the very real dangers of this health crisis and the uncertainty of what may lie ahead. Sports is the ideal distraction for the masses and it would bring, at least for a few hours a week, a reprieve from the doom and gloom currently sending many across the globe into a panic.
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