The coronavirus outbreak is changing the sports world right before our eyes, but the sport of boxing is staying confident.
The coronavirus pandemic has halted sports and now going back to normal will be a test for society as a whole. Situations for the NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, and all the others have caused leagues and exposure to go dark.
First and foremost, of course, is the general safety.
But the boxing business, with a contingency plan, will only be able to resume depending on when this situation abates. Promoters and officials of the PBC (Premier Boxing Champions), Top Rank, and Matchroom Boxing have canceled all dates on the schedule through the months of April and May.
The PBC, Top Rank, and Matchroom — all with lucrative streaming and network televised deals — have canceled two or three scheduled shows per month during this shutdown.
The PBC utilizes mega-deals with FOX Sports, FS1, and Showtime. Top Rank has a multi-million dollar deal with ESPN. Matchroom also has a multi-million dollar contract to stream fights on the DAZN Network.
Other promoters, who struggle to gain exposure for fighters, will experience a more difficult time returning to normal. They don’t have the network and streaming contracts. They depend on social media platforms to televise events and utilize the sponsors to make ends meet.
Realizing that a national state of emergency is in effect, and with the worldwide spectacle of boxing now shut down, there will be a significant amount of revenue lost.
Nonetheless, persuading the loyal fan base to return will not be an issue when this crisis abates. Boxing fans are loyal followers in regards to where and when they get their fix of the sport.
“Possibly June or July and that’s being optimistic,” said vice president of PBC communications Tim Smith on when a resumption will take place.
Smith says the NBA being the first professional sports league to suspend its schedule was a brave move. He expects the PBC to once again follow the lead in regards to resuming fights at venues and on the networks.
“Networks are partners in this,” Smith said. “They will work to sort this all out.”
After speaking with various personnel of the big three promotions, an overall consensus is there will be more competition when the PBC resumes. There’s limited concern about saturating fans with more than one conflicting show or broadcast.
The safety of the fighters, fans, and personnel comes first before any talk of a resumption though. With that said, the PBC is following leads of medical and government authorities with advice for the public to do the same.
Friday and Saturday evenings are when most boxing broadcasts are televised and streamed on the networks.
“I never heard over-saturation when people talk MLB and NBA, only when people talk about boxing,” Smith said. “Boxing is a sport just like every other sport. It will force a lot of other people to up their games.”
Basically, boxing has been in this position of competition with the saturation of new network television deals over the past few years.
And according to Smith, as it pertains to the PBC, “We are way ahead of ourselves with what the future holds.”
Though the future for the fighters, especially the non-main eventers who fight on undercards, is not certain. Many don’t possess financial security like the elite talent such as Canelo Alvarez.
With a record 11-fight deal with DAZN, Golden Boy Promotions, and Matchroom Boxing, Alvarez has the richest contract in the sport in excess of $365 million.
A four-division champion, a spectacle, and the face of boxing to some, Alvarez is scheduled for a middleweight title defense on May 2 on DAZN. That fight will probably be canceled as he possibly moves towards a trilogy with Gennady Golovkin in September.
The point here is this: Alvarez won’t be hurting to pay the bills. It’s the upcoming fighter and those who depend on boxing for income that will struggle to put food on the table.
The closure of boxing gyms, for safety reasons, is causing a disruption in training and preparation, not to mention a push back of fights.
Fighters are aware, indeed, that this is the biggest hurdle towards their progress and reaching the plateau of Alvarez.
“We’re all in it together, nothing that I’m going through is no easier than the guy who has the local bar or restaurant, everybody is suffering,” said Lou DiBella, the longtime New York-based promoter with a staple on the sport.
DiBella and Broadway Boxing, which has 64 pro fighters under contract, canceled a boxing card for Thursday night at the Showboat Hotel on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
He also co-promotes with the networks — more frequently with DAZN and Matchroom.
DiBella is affected by the shutdown of sports not just as a lone boxing promoter, but also as a minor league baseball team owner.
Nevertheless, he’s concerned about the well-being of his fighters. The sport, as he says, will survive with a crisis, like it always has.
“They’re independent contractors,” he said. “The star fighter who made a lot of money does not have to worry about it. Vast majority of fighters are fighting for a dream and are making money as they fight.”
He added, “If I’m not putting on a show they’re not making money.”
DiBella intends to speak to his talent. He also expects some to reach out, and he’ll be there for them. Shows in the meantime are off the board and will be rescheduled.
“Under the circumstances, we’ll try and help any way we can,” he said. “True of every citizen, true of every corporate citizen, the sports world is a microcosm right now.
“Like the rest of the world, we’re frozen a little bit.”
DiBella is ultimately trying to express that people need to “stay safe” during these difficult times.
Boxing will survive this crisis. And of course, this is a time to be safe. In due time, things will return to normal.
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