As the COVID-19 epidemic continues the sport of Boxing continues in its attempt to resume its normal activity under obvious constraints. Following the lead of successful cards that have been staged in Mexico and Las Vegas over the last month, SES Boxing Promotions took its first step in resuming on July 17th in Magdeburg, Germany. Unlike previous events that have taken place in a closed door environment due to the ongoing circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus, this card was the first to take place in front of a crowd of a thousand spectators.
While I was concerned given the circumstances of the global crisis, I was also curious as to how the atmosphere would look and whether guidelines similar to what has been a regular topic of discussion here in the United States would be followed. Although it should be no secret to longtime readers that this observer has been vocal in my concern regarding the attempt of not just Boxing, but all of sports to resume in the midst of what has become a global crisis, credit should be given to those who have done everything they can to put on events under circumstances that are not normal while also adhering to the respective guidelines that have been put in place by local, state, and federal officials.
In regard to the sport starting to resume on an international scale, I felt that this card could provide some insight as to what things might look like once spectators are allowed to resume attending events around the world. What I observed frankly did not give the impression that there were a thousand people in attendance. Perhaps, this was due to social distancing guidelines being in place where seating configurations were different than what one would associate with a crowd of that size. Even though this is purely speculation on the part of yours truly, from what I was able to see, it appeared that whatever guidelines that were in place were being followed.
Much as has been the case with other cards that have taken place during the COVID-19 epidemic, many officials wore face masks or other forms of facial guard. There were some however, from what I was able to see that were not wearing any facial covering, but it did appear to my eye that those folks were placed in positions where social distancing was observed.
In the interest of honesty with the reader, after several weeks of adjusting to an atmosphere where no spectators beyond essential personnel have been present at Boxing events, it was refreshing to hear the element of crowd noise. The atmosphere of this card seemed to provide a mix of crowd noise with the atmosphere of an event without spectators where one could hear punches being landed more clearly than perhaps one would hear under normal circumstances. One can assume this was due to whatever the seating configurations were in observance of social distancing guidelines.
The main event of this card featured undefeated former European Heavyweight champion Agit Kabayel in his first fight since March of last year facing veteran Evgenios Lazaridis of Greece. While this fight did not have much significance in terms of having the potential for the winner of the fight to challenge for a world championship in the near future, it did represent the first step for Kabayel, who recently vacated his European championship to focus on getting his name into the discussion in terms of world rated contenders.
In Lazaridis, Kabayel faced a steady opponent, who had stopped only once in eighteen previous bouts in his professional career. Lazaridis, however, was not known for his punching power and the main question that surrounded this fight in my eyes, similar to other bouts that have taken place under the circumstances of COVID-19 was what effect would Kabayel’s inactivity in addition to having to prepare for fight in the midst of an epidemic would have on him.
Kabayel quickly answered that question as he put on close to a perfect performance over the course of ten rounds. What was a highlight of the performance in my eyes was the success that Kabayel was able to have with his right hand and how he was able to mix his right hand into several combinations of punches. This along with consistent aggression throughout the bout was the story of the fight. Although Lazaridis remained very “Game “, an argument could be made that the fight, which followed a pattern of mostly one-way punishment could have been stopped as it became clear that Lazaridis could not find a way to turn the ebb and flow of the combat in his favor.
While this fight was one-sided, it was the type of performance by Kabayel that will likely lead to further opportunities for him down the line against a top ten contender. As for what this card could indicate for the return of crowds to Boxing events and other sports on a universal scale, the guidelines that were followed here could provide a blueprint for others to follow. The circumstances of COVID-19 however, will largely dictate how long it will be before things return to something akin to normal. For now, at best we can say that the process is one that will be gradual that can be described as baby steps. With cards scheduled to resume in California and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks, we will see how this process progresses.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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