BOXING has not come to a complete standstill, it seems. While almost all live sport across the globe has paused during the coronavirus pandemic, a live boxing card took place in Nicaragua over the weekend – and was broadcast on ESPN Deportes.
It was by no means a big show – topped by lightweights Ramiro Blanco and Robin Zamora, who also fought each other back in October. Zamora stopped Blanco in their first fight, and defeated him again at the weekend over eight rounds.
The event, promoted by former world titlist Rosendo Alvarez, had roughly 800 fans – 10 per cent of the venue’s full capacity – who all had to sit at least one seat away from one another. All staff wore protective face masks, and so too did the boxers until they entered the ring. There were apparently plenty of safety measures in place, including the measuring of people’s body temperatures – including Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez – as they entered the arena.
This was, clearly, a risk. However, Nicaragua is one of the few countries not currently enforcing social distancing measures as there have only been 11 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country, resulting in three deaths to date. As such, healthcare staff there are not under the severe strain of those in the UK or the US, for example, and so resources are able to be used on boxing events.
It’s good to see some fighters still able to earn a living, though it is slightly disconcerting to still see large gatherings like this, even in a region that is only mildly affected by the pandemic. So much is still unknown about the virus that it seems slightly irresponsible to go ahead with events like this.
This is purely speculation, but it might lead to larger promoters in other countries looking to areas like Nicaragua to stage shows during these quarantined times. The UFC have revived plans to stage their next big show in May at an as-yet undisclosed location. The more this happens, the more risk there is of spreading the virus. On a more practical level, how can fighters properly prepare for a fight in such circumstances? Adequate sparring would be hard to come by, for a start.
For those fighters who can’t ply their trade, there are plenty doing their part to help the community. Unified super-lightweight champion Jose Ramirez spoke to the New York Post about how he is providing supply boxes to farmworkers in the agriculture-rich Central Valley in California.
“I wanted to do something for those people who are doing their part by continuing to work in the fields and put food on the table for everyone in America,” he said. “Their job is considered essential. They work from 5:30am until late in the evening and by that time there’s nothing left in the stores, things like Lysol, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper and other essentials for the house. We want to make sure they have the proper things they need.”
In the UK, bantamweight prospect Sam Cox is helping deliver meals to NHS workers across London on a daily basis.
It seems we’re getting news each week of boxers going above and beyond to help those in need during this pandemic.
In America, there could be support available for professional fighters. In a column for BoxingScene, Thomas Hauser outlined that new legislation has widened the net for those able to receive unemployment benefits. Independent contractors who have lost work because of the pandemic can now apply for these benefits and, according to Hauser, this includes boxers. Promoters Main Events have already notified their fighters, and hopefully all other outfits there will start doing the same.
In the main part of his column, Hauser looked at the risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst fighters, and how it could be a widely underreported problem in the sport. Hauser notes that state athletic commissions in America provide medical specialists for physical ailments, but no psychiatrists. He notes how veteran broadcaster Jim Lampley said: “I don’t have empirical data on this. But my instinct tells me that post-traumatic stress disorder is very real and overwhelming for some fighters who live with it every day of their lives, and that it’s an under observed, underreported, and understudied phenomenon.”
This speaks to a larger problem in boxing, and arguably all sport; mental health issues among active and retired athletes are not addressed properly. More research is needed, more honesty is needed and more robust infrastructure to provide support is needed.
The WBC aren’t doing themselves any favours. After the recent controversy around some comments he made, Devin Haney has been reinstated as the WBC lightweight champion – a title he should never have held in the first place. It looked as though Luke Campbell would get a crack at the belt – which became vacant when Vasyl Lomachenko was made ‘franchise’ champion – against Javier Fortuna, but they’ll now fight for the ‘interim’ title and a mandated shot at Haney, who is yet to beat a world class opponent. It’s messy and it’s stupid – it’s boxing.
Joseph Parker is due a special shout out for the ingenious videos he’s been putting out whilst in lockdown, most of which have him recreating iconic scenes from movies, generally involving dancing and singing. He’s not alone, either; Tyson Fury and Eddie Hearn appear in the latest one. It’s fun content, but it’s also a brilliant PR move – each video has gone viral and will only enhance Parker’s marketability.
As promised, Matchroom have started holding ‘ePress Conferences’ on their YouTube channel, starting with lightweights Lee Selby and George Kambosos Jnr. It basically just sees Hearn mediate a discussion between two fighters, with everyone live streaming themselves into the video, and it really works. Selby and Kambosos aren’t officially scheduled to fight each other, but this video certainly stoked the flames and had fans interested. If they keep this up with other rivals, they’re onto a winner – it’s a really clever idea.