If America’s response to COVID-19 were a boxer, it would look something like this:
You book a fight with Gennady Golovkin. In the weeks leading up to the bout, you don’t even bother to train, almost as if the reality of the impending danger was nothing more than a hoax.
Stepping through the ropes, your gameplan is to just stand there, arms by your side, and let’s just see what happens.
Amazingly, your last memory of the bout is the harsh stench of the smelling salts as you’re brought back from your punch-induced slumber, utterly shocked to find yourself laying on your back on the canvas, staring up at the ceiling.
Who would’ve thought that by doing everything wrong, it would all turn out so wrong?
In this coronavirus vs USA tilt, the virus is way ahead on points and continuing to inflict punishment. The devastating blows just keep on being delivered but in this battle, there’s no referee who’s going to humanely step in and stop the fight.
Boxing is just one of many opponents feeling the sting of COVID-19. The question is, how will the sport recover? As well, where is pugilism headed going forward?
Slowly, responses to these queries are being revealed and some in the sport don’t like the answers that they are getting.
Boxing’s New Normal
For certain, the phrase “new normal” is being worn out worse than a Mike Tyson sparring partner. Instead, it might be better to suggest it’s boxing’s new reality, except for the fact that some in the sport appear unwilling to accept this reality as a fact of life.
Boxing returned from its COVID-19 induced lockdown on June 7 with a card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Almost immediately, the virus scored a TKO.
Women’s junior lightweight contender Mikaela Mayer, slated to fight Helen Joseph in the co-main event of the Top Rank Boxing card, tested positive for COVID-19 and had to drop out of the fight. COVID-19 did to her what no fighter has proven capable of achieving – stopping Mayer in her tracks. A former U.S. Olympian, Mayer is 13-0 as a pro with 5 KOs and a rising star in the 130-pound division.
Instead of accepting her fate and praising her sport for putting public health and safety first and foremost, Mayer did what all boxers are conditioned to do – she fought back.
“I just think having such a cutthroat policy, like one positive test and you’re done, is a little harsh,” Mayer told ESPN. “Considering we don’t have all the information and there has obviously been a handful of false positives in the past.
“if I did have an opportunity to take another test I believe I would have been cleared.”
Likewise, the super featherweight world title bout between titleholder Jamel Herring and challenger Jonathan Oquendo was twice postponed this month, both times because Herring tested positive for COVID-19.
The day after the postponement of the second fight, Herring’s latest COVID-19 test came back negative, leading him to suggest the second test was a false positive.
“It’s not the commission’s fault,” Herring posted on Twitter. “Some of these tests just aren’t 100% accurate. Did I have the virus? Yes but after two weeks free from symptoms, I provided a negative test for travel.”
Can Big Fights Happen?
Can a Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua heavyweight title unification bout even take place under COVID-19 restrictions? Photo by: Mike DiDomizio (Wikimedia Commons).
So far, the boxing cards that have taken place haven’t featured any of the sport’s superstars. Under the realm of how boxing must currently be contested, the real dilemma appears to be whether such fights can even be booked.
Top Rank Boxing, promoters of the cards and the MGM Grand have worked closely together to create as safe an environment as possible in which to contest the bouts.
“The all-encompassing details dealing with the ‘bubble,’ along with the testing procedures and medical-related items have been the biggest hurdle,” Brad Jacobs, COO of Top Rank, told Forbes.com.
Fights are closed to the public and media. Only essential fight camp members and event staff are permitted on site. Broadcasters are calling the blow by blow of the bouts remotely from a studio.
As much as boxing fans are thrilled to again see activity in the ring, the big name bouts still aren’t happening.
British heavyweights Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, who between them hold all the major world title belts in the weight division, have agreed to a two-fight deal that is supposed to take place in 2021. But will they?
Fury must first defend his titles against Deontay Wilder in the third fight of their trilogy of bouts. That was supposed to happen July 18 but was called off due to COVID-19.
There’s been speculation that this fight will be held Dec. 19 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas but why book an outdoor facility if you can’t sell tickets?
There’s still the pay-per-view option to generate bank for such a mega fight but the reality is that without the capacity of a stadium crowd, the money paid to both fighters would be significantly less than usual.
Are the world’s best boxers going to be willing to put their lives on line while taking a haircut at the pay window?
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