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Coronavirus in boxing: Why fans won't see Canelo, Joshua, or Lomachenko compete in state of emergency

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Joseph Herron Updated
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Amid the mass panic surrounding the very real and potentially catastrophic coronavirus emergency, many events within the boxing industry and community have already been postponed or cancelled.

While fans understand why these events have been halted, many aren't exactly sure who's making these decisions to call off events.

Matchroom Sport's managing director, Eddie Hearn, wants every interested fight fan to know it's completely out of the hands of the fighters and promoters.

"Everything's completely out of our hands," Hearn recently stated on the official Matchroom Boxing channel on YouTube.

"We're led by the government. At the moment, it's business as usual. As we've stressed to the fans, don't panic...anything you have a ticket for that is canceled, you will receive a refund in full."

"I think it's the short term stuff, particularly that's going to be under the most threat."

On Friday, March 13th, Matchroom Sport held an official press conference for the scheduled May 23rd event, featuring pound for pound fighter Oleksandr Usyk and perennial contender Dereck Chisora. The presser announced the sale of tickets and Sky Sports PPV. According to Hearn, it's business as usual until further notice.

"When we talk about this fight (Usyk vs. Chisora), it's 11 weeks away. Joshua vs. Pulev is 15 weeks away. Dillian Whyte vs. Alexander Povetkin is 7 weeks away. I'm more concerned with March 28th at the O2 Arena (Avensyan vs. Kelly) and April the 4th in Newcastle (Ritson vs. Vazquez)."

"Again, it's completely out of our hands. But I love the way that everyone's an expert on the coronavirus, including me and you and the bloke down the pub. The truth is none of us know, and it's going to be a day by day situation. We've got to keep on top of it and stay positive."

"Everything that has been canceled in America has been done so by either the government, the state or the local athletic commission. So until the British Boxing Board of Control and the government give us a conclusive answer to an event, every event goes ahead as planned."

Boxing, unlike other organized sports, can't reward their brave combatants unless they compete in the ring. In the NBA and EFL, athletes are under contract and get paid whether or not they perform. If a prizefighter gets injured during training and doesn't make it to the ring on the scheduled event date, he or she doesn't get paid.

It's been this way since the sport's origin.

Hearn hopes every invested fan understands this aspect of the boxing business. It's the primary reason why he feels strongly about adhering to a "business as usual" policy until otherwise instructed.

"This is their livelihood...that's how they get paid. So we have to think about contingency plans. That's the most important thing."

"But a lot of it is out of our hands and we will have to act accordingly."

Most great trainers and fighters insist that boxing is 90% mental, and a fighter's attitude and work ethic determines his successes and failures in the ring. Obviously, fighters are concerned with their own safety and long term health. Hearn warns every fighter to remain calm, take every precaution while training, and stay focused on being the best they can be both physically and mentally during this global crisis.

"You have to be a pro right now. No excuses. You just go to work, get on with it, and work as hard as you can every day. We know we've got a mad situation for the whole country. You just be vigilant, be careful, and follow the guidelines made by the people who are supposedly experts on this."

"Obviously the fighters have to be disciplined. And right now if you're boxing on March 28th at the O2, you're boxing on March 28th at the O2. If you're on the Newcastle card, you're on the Newcastle card."

Because a big portion of a fighter's revenue is based on licensing fees paid by the various networks which televise these great events worldwide, discussions have taken place regarding the possibility of broadcasting events with no fans in attendance.

Although it very well may happen out of necessity, the British based promoter doesn't embrace the idea of staging fights without the always passionate fans of boxing present.

But massive events like Canelo vs. Saunders, Joshua vs. Pulev, and Lomachenko vs. Lopez are impossible to stage without the benefit of proceeds generated from the live gate and will more than likely be postponed until further notice. 

"I don't like it," says Hearn. "Boxing is a sport that's built on that energy...those great moments where the crowd goes crazy and everyone's in the stands singing 'Sweet Caroline'. Also, the bigger shows are gate dependent...to pay the fighters and to make sure that everything gets taken care of for the undercard."

"So when you start talking about AJ, Usyk, or Dillian Whyte, yeah...those events are dependent on the crowd for the success of those events."

"If we have to stage events behind closed doors to make sure that we can provide content for our TV partners, and more importantly provide fights and opportunities for our fighters, it's something we'll definitely look at. But for the bigger events, it doesn't sit right with me...not just financially."

"But it's important that our fighters stay active and most importantly get paid. Don't forget, fighters only get paid when they fight."

Obviously, fighters who have already made millions from previous events can weather this global pandemic financially.  It's the mid-level fighters who will be affected the most by these event closures.  Let's hope and pray this potentially catastrophic pandemic is short-lived. 

 
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