Saturday, June 13, 2020

Boxing Behind Closed Doors: What To Take Away So Far

By now, readers of The Boxing Truth®️ as well as those who have followed this observer’s work both online and in print for many years know that I have been vocal about my feeling uneasy about not just the resumption of Boxing, but also normal everyday life in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. A point of view that I have shared not only through my writings, but also through various social media platforms in which I am active. Although frankly there hasn’t been much to ease my concerns, the sport of Boxing did get the process of resuming underway one week ago with three events that took place in Mexico and Las Vegas, NV.

While coverage of those events are available in the archives here on The Boxing Truth®️, I felt it appropriate with week one now in the books, to share some of my impressions or take aways for lack of a better term on what I observed overall. First, it is important to note that even though Boxing, much like the rest of the world is not in it’s normal active state with various events taking place daily around the world, what we have seen is a more centralized concept in resuming competition. By this, I mean Boxing cards taking place in a set schedule format from one location. I am referring to the events that have taken place at the MGM Grand Convention Center that has been referred to recently as “The Bubble.”

Not only are bouts staged in a closed door environment without the addition of spectators/fans, but the surrounding area of the hotel that has been closed off from general use also serves as a place to house fighters that are scheduled to compete. The area also houses a training facility as well rather than simply a ring in the hotel’s convention center where competitive fights take place. Although I approached this first week of Boxing’s resumption with an open mind as well as being uneasy, in all honesty, I was impressed with the set up of the convention center as well as what was documented by cable network ESPN regarding the area known as “The Bubble.” While some may be critical for criticism sake, if one is objective it is hard to say that the collaboration between promoter Bob Arum, his company Top Rank, Inc., the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), and finally ESPN was not well thought out and executed.

In terms of the set up inside of the convention center, I was also impressed by the precautions that have been put in place. Such precautions include a fighter’s camp wearing face masks, ring introductions taking place on a platform outside the ring at distance away from the fighters, where post-fight interviews are also conducted in observance of social distancing guidelines, as well as the ring bring vacuumed and sanitized after each bout. This underscores that everyone involved appear to be taking the COVID-19 virus seriously and that was evident to yours truly as I covered the events from my home office.

Among the precautions that were/are being followed for upcoming events, which are said to be scheduled weekly for the duration of the summer, is a set testing protocol for fighters, their camps, referees, officials and others that are allowed into the closed area of the MGM Grand hotel. It was these protocols that resulted however, in two positive tests of fighters who were scheduled to compete on cards scheduled for the month of June.

The first of these tests involved undefeated Jr. Lightweight and former U.S. Olympian Mikaela Mayer, who was removed from her scheduled bout on June 9th with fellow contender Helen Joseph. This was followed by unbeaten Featherweight Chris Zavala, who was scheduled to compete this coming Tuesday (June 16th) in Las Vegas in a bout against Edward Vazquez, seeing his fight cancelled due to testing positive for the virus as well Jr. Flyweight Silvia Torres who was pulled from her scheduled bout on June 20th in Mexico City, Mexico against Edith De Jesus after also testing positive. While two of the three tests directly impacted cards that Bob Arum was/is putting on in Las Vegas, the three positive test results that have bern released thus far do show that while the sport is trying to resume, COVID-19 remains a very serious threat and will likely continue to impact any planned cards for not only Arum’s Top Rank, but for other promoters throughout the sport globally as they also look to resume their respective schedule of events.

Bob Arum, the NSAC, and ESPN have however, succeeded in providing a blueprint for other promoters, state athletic commissions/international regulatory boards, and other television/streaming networks to follow going forward. While what we have seen so far out of Las Vegas for the resumption of Boxing has been encouraging and has given yours truly a few ideas on how such a model could be used in the sport in the long-term even after the COVID-19 epidemic that I want to share at a more appropriate time, I feel for now though progress has been made, it is best for everyone involved, promoters, fighters, networks, regulatory commissions, and even those of us who cover the sport to proceed with caution as unfortunately, activity in the sport and the world in general will continue to be dictated by COVID-19 and as such, circumstances including what may be scheduled could change at any moment.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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