THE coronavirus is causing chaos all over the world, not least the sporting world. Events have been cancelled, plenty are at the threat of, while others have gone ahead behind closed doors. The Football Association today (March 13) announced that the Premier League and Football League is to be suspended until at least April 4.
Boxing is facing similar disarray.
Separate shows in America, featuring the likes of Michael Conlan, Shakur Stevenson and James Kirkland, have been called off after initial plans to close the doors to the public were deemed unworkable.
Major promoters are scrambling to gather information on the virus but the ongoing threat to notable events all over the world is huge.
Kalle Sauerland, head of the World Boxing Super Series, is approaching crisis point with the upcoming cruiserweight final featuring Yuniel Dorticos versus Mairis Briedis on March 21. It is scheduled for Riga in Latvia where a ban on gatherings of over 200 people has been actioned due to the virus.
Sauerland is currently exploring options to stage the final behind closed doors.
“As I see it, we’re boxing promoters, we’re not experts on the situation,” Sauerland told Boxing News. “We’re not privileged to information that the higher powers might be so, for us, it’s really worrying times. Planning is very difficult; the potential scenarios that we would normally have in place as a promoter – ie an injury – don’t really apply here.
“Yes, we could postpone events but [that would suggest we will reschedule]. We’re not ‘in the know’ of anything. We don’t know anything about timelines, we don’t know anything about restrictions or the different kind of restrictions so we will continue being experts at what we do, but we will be under the guidelines of authorities, local and international.
“We have to look at the policies of different governments but they’re not all aligned, so that makes it even more complicated especially when you run an international operation. So, for us, we are bound to what the experts are telling us because we’re not experts in this field and I think any promoter giving any other advice, apart from talking about left hooks and uppercuts, should stick to their own business.”
Matchroom boss, Eddie Hearn, who like Sauerland promotes all over the world, is addressing the same conundrum. On March 28, Josh Kelly and David Avenesyan are supposed to fight for the European welterweight title at the O2 in London. At the time of writing, the show goes ahead and – like Sauerland – he is exploring the possibility of closing the door to fans but admitted such a scenario might make staging events financially unviable.
“We are led by government decisions,” Hearn told Boxing News. “Right now, there is no ban on live events but obviously that can change.
“We are certainly open to events behind closed doors, but the bigger events are always dependant on the revenue generated at the box office. There are plenty of moving parts but we are thinking on our feet to make sure our fighters are taken care of and the public safety is of course considered.
“From a fans’ perspective, any cancelled events would lead to a full refund but right now it’s business as usual until we’re told otherwise.”
Frank Warren, of Queensberry Promotions, is preparing to stage the much-anticipated heavyweight showdown between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce on April 11. The event, like Avenesyan-Kelly, is set for the O2.
“At this time, we understand that the fight is going ahead as planned and we continue to take advice from the World Health Organisation and Public Health England, as well as that of local government,” said a spokesperson for the O2 on Thursday (March 12).
“The O2 remains fully open as usual and events scheduled at The O2 Arena are currently going ahead. Should this change, we will communicate details to visitors and ticket holders as soon as possible.
“We take the health and safety of our guests and employees very seriously and continue to monitor the threat of coronavirus globally with advice from the World Health Organisation and Public Health England, as well as that of local government.”
In light of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Thursday that, for the time being, no bans on public events will be enforced, Warren added: “Of course, Queensberry prioritise the well-being of those attending or participating in the event and will constantly monitor the government position and the health of the boxers.
“Any update will be posted online through our official channels and any announcements from other sources should be disregarded.
“In keeping with the stoic position of the government today however we remain optimistic to present an incredible night of boxing.”