With the spread of the coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, continue to infect people rapidly, it seems that all social gathering including scheduled sporting events is being shut down.
“In fact, boxing star Connor McGregor has already found his family affected by this worrying pandemic, with his aunt sadly passing away from the virus just this month.
Boxing is not the only sport to be hit by cancellations, with the future of the Tokyo Olympics hanging in the balance and the Premier League also grinding to a halt.
Around the world, it seems that coronavirus cancellations have affected every major league and sport, from tennis to baseball and rugby to basketball. Although the British Board of Boxing have cancelled all matches in the UK due to take place in public, it is likely these matches will resume again in the future but may go ahead without a live audience.
In the US, this idea has been raised too, with possible rescheduling of matches to take place in empty stadiums.
However, with the future of cancelled matches unconfirmed, here are the most current boxing matches and news affected by the outbreak.
Shakur Stevenson vs Miguel Marriaga
Shakur Stevenson, US 2016 Olympic champion, was due to fight Miguel Marriaga in his first defence of his featherweight title at the Hulu Theatre in Madison Square Gardens, New York. However, this match has now, like many others, been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Although there was talk that ESPN might still screen the fight just with an empty stadium, it seems that this idea has for the time being also been shelved. The New York State Athletic Commission has stated that “the health and safety of the fighters and their teams” was their top priority, and as such any and all events have for the moment been suspended. Irish 2016 Olympian Michael Conlan was also due to fight in New York, but again this match has also been cancelled.
April 2020 was to see Savannah Marshall’s world title fight, due to be held in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK. Although this too has now been cancelled, Marshall is rather philosophical about the whole thing. Her opponent was scheduled to be New Zealand’s Geovana Peres and despite Marshall being already three weeks into her gruelling training schedule, she admits with some sense of perspective that “realistically I don’t think it’s going to happen”. Marshall and her promoters Matchroom understand the disappoint this will cause for fans, but she urges everyone to appreciate the situation and to understand that although the cancellation has left her “absolutely gutted”, she and her promoters appreciate that is it the right thing to do as “the bottom line is health is more important.”
Pre-Olympic Training Suspended in Japan But Continues in UK
A number of countries were already due to start their pre-Olympic training in Japan. However, the coronavirus outbreak has meant this scheduled trained has been stopped indefinitely, with the future of the Tokyo Olympics still uncertain. In the UK, the Olympic boxing qualification event was still held in London at the Copper Box Arena. However, this decision has been hit with heavy criticism from Franco Falcinelli, who is president of the European Boxing Confederation, and has voiced his concerns that continuing to hold a mass gathering during the coronavirus outbreak meant the likelihood of a boxer becoming infected was “very high”. Those organising the event have reassured competitors that everything is being done to maintain the highest standards of hygiene possible and that self-distancing and isolation can still be practiced even within the parameters of such an event. Falcinelli, however, has continued to express his dismay at the decision to continue with the event and worries that many of the non-UK competitors may not be allowed to fly home after the event due to the transportation lockdowns that are currently being implemented to stop the virus spreading further.
Californian Suspensions but Mexico Continues with Matches
California hosts many of the big-name titles in the US when it comes to boxing and have taken the unprecedented move to cancel all boxing events until at least the end of March, including those scheduled by promoter, Golden Boy. However, Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya has done little to reassure fans that fights will commence even when the month is over, stating fans will be updated “when the time is appropriate”. In Mexico however, television network Telemundo still went ahead with their All-Star boxing event despite warnings that large social gatherings can cause further spreading of the virus. All-Star president Felix “Tutico” Zabala was nonplussed by the claims and said the event allowed a small number of spectators to enjoy a boxing match and forget about the coronavirus panic for a night. Whether this remains an irresponsible decision or not remains to be seen.
What do these Cancellations Mean for Promoters, Competitors and bookmakers?
US promotors and the British Board of Boxing have floated the idea that some boxing matches may resume but without the risk of a large social gathering that an audience would pose. UK promoter Eddie Hearn however has expressed his concerns at how this may play out in reality. Without the energy and buzz of a crowd, a sport like boxing would suffer as a crowd can be crucial to the success of the event. In times of financial losses, without money being taken at the gate, undercard players too would also not be able to cover all their costs to fight. Smaller events could still go ahead, in Hearn’s opinion, such as Terri Harper vs Natasha Jonas which would take place at the 1,400-seater Doncaster Dome, in order to still provide great content for boxing’s TV sponsors and create opportunities for fighters to still fight. But with these cancellations still a relatively new thing, it is hard to say for certain how it will impact the sport and what it might mean for the future of boxing. Those who are most likely to suffer from the fallout of coronavirus cancellations are the undercards. As self-employed athletes, boxing is the primary source of income and without the sponsorship deals to fall back on like champion and world title winning fighters, it is uncertain how many of them will be able to continue in the sport. Bookmakers on the other hand will also have to live with the cancellation of the matches. They might have a hard time continuing their business this year, because so many popular sports events have been cancelled already, for example important soccer matches like the Euro-Championship.
What do these Cancellations Mean for Fans?
If you have already bought tickets for some of these sporting events, it is likely that you will be able to claim a full refund. For most fans, as for the boxers themselves, it seems it will be a time to watch and wait. Some fighters, like Savannah Marshall, continue to receive funding as part of their GB team membership and other famous name boxers already have several other streams of income aside from the sport. It is likely that when fans next tune in to matches, many of the undercard fighters might have disappeared altogether, unable to keep up training without an income. This could change the face of boxing for fans, at least in the short time, so it will be interesting to see how these rescheduled matches play out – whenever they are next allowed to take place. For now, boxers and promoters are urging fans to put health first and it seems all major sporting bodies across the world are advising the same.