DON’T call it Super Saturday. Indoor gyms can reopen on July 25 for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown. But for amateur boxing clubs it is the very beginning of a long, cautious process. Social distancing within a gym will still need to be adhered to, padwork and sparring are not permitted and training outdoors is still preferable, if possible. There will be boxing training in clubs, but not as we know it.
“It’s going to be very difficult. Training outside is much easier because you can have more people training outside and the risk of infection is much less outside. Inside as soon as you get confined spaces the risk of spread increases quite dramatically,” explains Dr. Mike Loosemore, boxing’s leading medical expert.
“As you get closer and closer [to each other] the risk goes up very quickly,” he continued. “It’s an exponential rise the closer you get as far as viral load is concerned. Being closer increases your risk, being indoors increases your risk, breathing heavily increases your risk and facing each other increases your risk and unfortunately we have an indoor sport, where people breathe heavily, get very close and face each other. So we are a sport at high risk of spreading it, if one of the boxers has it.”
Full details on all the measures clubs will have to observe are available through the England Boxing website: https://www.englandboxing.org/ and this video demonstrates what a training session under these conditions would look like:
“If you look at the guidelines it’s going to be very difficult for coaches and athletes to train in the gym in any sort of numbers at all. And when you get to the gym, what are you doing to do? Obviously you can do some shadow boxing, you can hit some bags, you can do circuits, you can do some weight training, making sure obviously that clean everything down afterwards, that the equipment is all cleaned afterwards etc. etc. So [you need to think about] how do you keep the gloves clean, how do you keep the wraps clean,” Dr. Loosemore points out. “People are going to have to come in in their kit, they’re going to have to leave in their kit. You won’t be able to have any shower facilities or anything like that.
“You’ve got to keep that two square metres with movement, so three square metres around you at all times [when training]. It’s going to be very difficult to get back in a meaningful way. As far as actually returning to our sport at the moment that’s really difficult.”
Coronavirus is a disease that no one wants to catch or spread. Even the young and healthy can be badly affected, although they are at far less risk than the elderly. “We’ve had several athletes, not boxers but top end athletes that have had this and are really struggling to get anywhere near back to where they were. So even as an athlete you don’t want to catch it. I think if you’re a young person and you catch it, it isn’t as big a deal as if you’re older,” Dr. Loosemore said. “The older you are, the worse it gets. None the less you can still be affected by it if you’re young. But the major consideration for me is spreading the disease to your home, to your mothers, to your grandmothers which happens and it happens easily.”
“It affects the poorer end of society and they’re the people that tend to get it. Even if the people boxing are fit and young, there’s often people at home who are not. We’ve lost three coaches so far to coronavirus, so it’s not a trivial thing,” he added. “People are dying of this virus.”
The condition of an individual with coronavirus can get very nasty indeed. “Your lungs just get stiffer and stiffer and you can’t breathe. You basically get an inflammatory reaction which causes all sorts of problems, it causes really bad damage to your lungs, microembolias to your kidneys can cause kidney failure, embolize your brain, which causes mini strokes and dementia, inflammation of the nerves that cause ongoing neuritis, cardiomyopathies which make your heart not work properly, muscular problems, which means your muscles are sore and painful and don’t work properly,” he explained.
“We almost got overwhelmed in March/April, the hospitals were very close to being overwhelmed with patients and in Tokyo at the moment they are overwhelmed. In the Yemen they can’t dig graves quick enough to put people in them, in the Syrian camps there’s thousands and thousands of people dying of this. In India they had something like 100,000 new cases yesterday. This is spreading everywhere. Once it catches hold and starts to spread quickly, it does spread very quickly.”
Amateur boxing is the foundation of the sport. It is does so much for so many people and boxing’s long-term future depends on the amateur sport. But with the pandemic ongoing, unfortunately, its comeback cannot be rushed. “There’s nothing more that I want than getting everybody back to boxing. The reason I support boxing and have done for many years is because I think it’s a very good sport and a very healthy sport and it’s a good sport for people and unfortunately it’s a sport that doesn’t mix with Covid very well,” Dr. Loosemore told Boxing News. “The key to not get coronavirus is to wash your hands and keep socially distanced and if you can’t keep socially distanced then you have to put mitigation in place, which is face masks, gloves, aprons, face coverings. They’re there to mitigate a risk.
“I think we have to try to be responsible and what we have to do in sport, any sport, whatever your sport is, you’ve got to look at it, decide how you keep the sport going without increasing the risk to the participants and their families.”