As the sport of Boxing looks to continue trying to resume under the circumstances of the COVID-19 epidemic, some might ask when we might see fights that had significant public interest prior to the epidemic and under what conditions would such bouts take place. A conundrum that many world champions and top contenders throughout the sport will have to deal with as the epidemic continues is whether or not they want to compete. A decision that many athletes throughout all of sports are contemplating. For fighters throughout combat sports there is both a question of potential risk to their health due to the potential exposure to the virus as well as the risk every fighter takes each time they compete. There is also a second question that is asked. Whether competing under such circumstances is more of a risk in terms of a fighter’s position in the sport as well as financially than there is a reward by competing.
After all, it is logical for a fan, those who cover the sport like yours truly, and others to question how many top level fights can be made under circumstances such as an epidemic where numbers have not yet indicated a legitimate decline. What is underestimated however, is the opportunity this can present fighters. It cannot be overlooked that the COVID-19 crisis has had a severe impact on just about every aspect of everyday life. For many fighters who are not fortunate enough to command multi-million dollar paydays each time they compete, the crisis has also resulted in potential opportunities being taken away simply because the sport has not been active. With the sport attempting to resume behind closed doors, it does open up opportunities for several fighters to not only earn income, but also potentially move themselves into position for more lucrative paydays down the line depending on when life including spectators going to sporting events may return to something akin to normal.
What this crisis has also done is present an opportunity of a different sort for world champions who are looking to stay active. While it might not be realistic to expect many fighters who are considered to be the top stars in the sport to resume active competition when they may not be able to earn as much money from both purses as well as from live gate revenue seeing as everything for the foreseeable future will be closed to the public, a problem many top fighters and world champions will have will be by being inactive it might have an effect on a fighter’s skills over time. Two world champions have however, shown that there are benefits to staying active even if it comes under circumstances such as COVID-19. I am referring of course to WBO Featherweight world champion Shakur Stevenson, who competed on June 9th as part of the first Boxing card to take place in the United States since March in defeating Felix Caraballo in a non-title bout held in the Jr. Lightweight division.
Current WBO Jr. Featherweight world champion Emanuel Navarrete took a similar approach as he returned to the ring on June 20th to face a veteran Uriel Lopez in a non-title bout in Mexico City, Mexico. The bout, which like all the bouts we have seen that have taken place in Las Vegas and in Mexico, took place behind closed doors without spectators. Much like Stevenson’s bout against Caraballo, Navarrette moved up one weight class to the Featherweight division for this fight.
Although one should never go into a fight with a preconceived idea of what will take place as anything can happen at any time, this was a fight for Navarrette to test the waters of a new weight class against a “Game”, but ultimately over matched opponent. For six rounds, Navarrette used his complete skill set to dictate how the fight was fought and dominate the action.
What was particularly impressive about Navarrette’s approach was how he balanced his attack to the head and body of Lopez, as well as showing his patience in taking his time. In the fifth round, Navarrette dropped Lopez with a left hook to the body. Although Lopez, who entered the fight with an even record of 13-13-1, with 6 Knockouts, had all the appearance of a fighter who was thought to be a mere opponent, he did get up and did attempt to fight on. A second knockdown from another left hook to the body of Lopez in round six however, would end matters.
While there may be some criticism of this fight based on the record Lopez compared to Navarrette, who entered with a record of 31-1, with 27 Knockouts, it is important to remember that it was not uncommon for many years to see world champions take fights in between title defenses as a method to both stay busy as well as test the waters of a new division against fighters who are thought to be below their level. For many reasons the least of which being economic, this has been something that world champions have gone away from in recent years.
The COVID-19 epidemic however, has made such fights a necessity for those fighters both world champions and contenders, who want to stay active under the current conditions. As things remain uncertain both in terms of the crisis and Boxing’s ability to operate both efficiently and effectively under the circumstances, no one can really say with a degree of certainty as to what the future plans for any fighter might be until the circumstances of the COVID-19 virus can be something that can be controlled. In the meantime, for fighters like Emanuel Navarrete, the goal should be to stay busy as opportunities present itself.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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