ROBERT SMITH of the British Boxing Board of Control is fully expecting the sport to return to the UK in February. After liaising with doctors over the Christmas period, the difficult decision was made to postpone all action scheduled for January due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am extremely disappointed that we had to do this again,” said Smith, talking to Boxing News a year after the same decision was made at the start of 2021 for similar reasons.

“We limped across the line in the end. December in particular was a difficult month with several shows being hit by late pull-outs and difficulties in finding replacements, all largely because of the rising positive tests.

“We saw a steep rise from November to December in positive cases, which was making running the sport problematic. One only had to look at the amount of tournaments that were scheduled to have eight or nine bouts going ahead with only two or three. That simply isn’t sustainable.”

There were more positive tests on the final British shows of the year on the weekend of December 17. Not only that, with cases soaring over the festive period, the issue of securing enough doctors for each show became a very real cause for concern.

“Doctors became concerned that their colleagues were testing positive for the virus,” said Smith. Though doctors may have agreed to work on a show, there was an increasing risk that either they would test positive or be pulled off the show to cover absent colleagues in surgeries and hospitals. Simply, if the correct amount of medical staff cannot be secured, a show cannot go ahead.

For context on the numbers of doctors required to ensure a boxing show can go ahead, Smith explained that at least two doctors are required for small shows. For a show with eight to 10 fights, four doctors are needed and for the bigger stadium and arena events – due to the volume of fights and the size of the venues – at least six doctors must be present.

A return to behind-closed-doors boxing was considered and quickly rejected. “We don’t want to do that again unless it’s an absolute last resort,” he said. “It served a purpose in 2020 but we would see that as a significant backward step. It doesn’t solve the potential shortage of medical staff, either.”

The biggest casualty of the decision was the much-anticipated showdown between Chris Eubank Jnr and Liam Williams, slated for Cardiff on January 29. However, due to the current rules in Wales, that show could not have taken place with spectators present so would likely have been postponed – regardless of the Board’s decision. The differing and ever-changing restrictions from the various UK governments could hamper plans to return in February, Smith concedes. However, he fully expects the first professional boxing events of the year to take place in February after a productive meeting with doctors on Wednesday (January 5).

A new operation document was put forward, with several protocols whittled down to a small number of new requirements. It is believed that masks will again be required to be worn by all ringsiders and there will be a tightening of the current testing procedures.

All licence-holders will receive a copy of the new regulations next week.