The Frank Warren Column
By Frank Warren
PERHAPS NOW, MORE than ever, is the time for boxing to properly punch its weight and establish a strong foothold on what will be, for a while at least, a new sporting landscape.
As someone who was involved when the strict safety provisions were put in place when British boxing was nearly out for the count following the negligence case pursued by Michael Watson against the Board of Control at the beginning of the century, I know more than most that there cannot be any shortcuts taken.
I also fully accept that, as our sport requires expert medical support in position in case of emergencies, we cannot inflict further strain on the NHS until the capacity is in place.
With all that being said, the moment we get the green light from the government to resume we must be ready to hit the ground running and place boxing at the forefront of the sporting recovery.
Of course, things are not going to be the same for a little while yet and fans will have to settle for the armchair over the ringside seat. It is down to us to create an environment which is safe yet atmospheric and appealing at the same time.
We are going to be a television product for a period of time and we have got to make the best of it.
What we cannot do is sit on the sidelines hoping for everything to be alright again while other sports steal a march and grab all the public attention.
We owe it to the fighters to provide a platform for them to proceed with their profession and be able to provide for themselves and their families again. Young boxers will have been hit particularly hard by the current restrictions because without a fight there is no remuneration.
The same goes for us because without events there is no regular income. However, young fighters have little or no financial insulation against the enforced inactivity we are all currently experiencing.
They are climbing only the lower rungs of the ladder and, unfortunately for them, those are not especially lucrative. It is similar to an apprenticeship. We invest in them and they invest in themselves.
There is also the mental wellbeing aspect because these guys train hard for specific dates and currently have nothing aim for.
Fortunately for our young crop, with the benefit of a television platform, there is a way back in the short term. Sadly for boxers learning their trade on the small hall circuit there is clearly a much longer road ahead.
Being stuck indoors has given us plenty of time and scope to formulate plans for our return and figure out exactly how it will work. No sport wants to be operating behind closed doors, but that is how it is going to be, so we have to face up to the reality.
Boxing has got to be a part of that. We need to be there, along with the other major sports, delivering the goods. We want to deliver regular boxing back to BT Sport subscribers and, following the guidance from the Board, the TV packaged shows will consist of four or five fights initially within safe surrounds.
Before any of this can come into play the boxers need to train. So gymnasiums need to be open and they need to be sanitised on a regular basis. The boxers, trainers and everybody involved under the new guidelines will have to be tested regularly and there will be strict medical provisions that everyone will have to conform to before any bouts can take place. The safety and protection of everybody involved is paramount. They cannot just jump straight back in and will need to have contact with trainers and sparring partners. There will be no income from a live gate and obviously there is an expensive cost on ensuring the safety aspect of this.
Everybody has got to be patient because we’ve got to get this thing up and running first of all and we won’t be able to stack cards with 14-odd fights like before to give people work.
Hygiene procedures within gyms have got to be looked at carefully, testing has got to be taken into consideration and it could be the case that boxers appearing on a show will be placed into confinement in somewhere like a hotel ahead of the fights to avoid any non-essential contact.
We are looking at all aspects and eventualities while we await further guidance from the government on when we are safe to resume under the new protocols.
The green light will come and we will ensure that our fighters are at the forefront of bringing boxing back to the fans.
THERE HAS BEEN a number of speculative stories floating about recently regarding the possibility of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua attempting to cut out the middle men and face each other once the heavyweight train is rolling once again.
The position is very simple and we are all on the same page. There has been some discussions going on with various sites interested in staging the fight, but no concrete offers have been submitted.
In the absence of this, there have been no negotiations regarding the potential fight. The fights that have been made and contracted are Tyson vs Deontay Wilder and Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev, but when they will be able to happen is currently unknown.
Should a pathway eventually clear towards making Tyson v AJ actually become a reality it will be very interesting to see if both parties truly want the fight. I know Tyson does and we do. With Team Joshua I am just not so sure they are as keen as they make out.
We’ll have to wait and see.