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How boxing can return – the latest update

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Robert Smith of the British Boxing Board of Control updates Matt Christie on the latest plans for the return of boxing

Are things any clearer on the return of boxing after the most recent announcements from the government regarding the slow easing of lockdown restrictions?
I haven’t seen anything that rules out our plans to return in July. That has been the goal for a long time and we remain hopeful that will be the case though, realistically, it looks like it will be the middle of the month or later on. We’ve always said we’ll go when we’re ready and we won’t do anything until we’re ready. It really is as simple as that. I’ve had discussions with doctors and we have to be aware that there could still be another spike in the virus. The government guidelines haven’t always been clear and certain members of the public have already broken the rules. Things are changing every day. What I can say is that discussions from the major promoters have been very positive. They may not admit it, or even know it, but they’re all singing from the same hymn sheet in regard to their desire to get the sport up and running again, which is positive in itself.

How feasible is it for a pay-per-view event to be staged in the near future?
With championship fights there’s a lot more to consider. Check weights, for example. There are far more factors but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. First of all, we have get shows up and running again before we consider the bigger events. That will allow us to see what’s feasible and what isn’t. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a promoter if they want to stage those events within our guidelines. They know the market but I would say they should be mindful about asking the public to pay for something they’re not in a position to afford. However, deciding whether or not an event is PPV is not in my remit.

You mentioned the need for PPE to be used at events in recent advice for promoters. Given how hard these have been to source for hospitals and care homes, is this realistic?
The Board, alongside promoters, are looking into sourcing the right equipment. Again, we will not be move ahead with anything until we have everything in place – including PPE – to ensure we have as safe an environment as possible. We’re mindful that equipment will be easier to come by next month than it is now. We’re moving in the right direction with everything. I’ll add at this point that in all my years at the Board, I’ve never had more emails and correspondence about anything. This project, to get boxing going again, is tremendously complicated but we’re putting all the necessary measures in place.

You are working with the big promoters. What advice do you have to those promoters without TV backing and funding?
My advice would be to sit tight. This is a business and those businesses that are strong enough to survive will do so. Some of the smaller promoters have indicated they won’t stage events until next year and that would be the sensible thing to do, but I do accept that scenario is far from ideal. There were initial conversations from promoters without TV deals about staging events. But having seen the provisions that need to be in place, and the cost attached without the ability to generate income in return, most have realised it’s not feasible.

I have seen some criticism that the Board is only helping the ‘big boys’. But tell me, what else are we supposed to do if they’re the only ones in a financial position to move forward? It’s imperative to get boxing back as soon as we can.

There has been some inevitable criticism despite you providing updates every week – few other heads of sports have been so transparent. Is that frustrating?
There’s been some criticism on social media. What are the qualifications of these people? Some have said we’re coming back too quick, that we’re rushing. Of course we’re not rushing, we’re simply putting ourselves in a position to return when we’re able to do so.

On a lot of issues, our hands are tied. The government has received a lot of stick yet they’re as much in the dark about the future as anyone. I’ve been through some dark times with the Board with fatalities and things like that. This period of time is nothing like that but even then we could act accordingly and put procedures in place based on facts. The truth remains that we’re working blind on this. But nobody should doubt that we’re doing what we can because we understand the importance of getting the sport up and running as soon as it’s possible to do so.

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