JEFF POWELL: As Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren make decent fists of world class boxing in the Covid era… locking the people out from events when they are still free to go to the pub is a form of madness
- Sport has resumed but without the presence of spectators inside stadiums
- English cricket and Premier League football have returned in empty grounds
- The prospect of fans in the O2 Arena in October and November has now gone
- Hearn and Warren have done well to put on shows given the circumstances
The fight-path to boxing’s climb-back to crowded arenas and well-stuffed wallets has been plunged off the radar by the government’s hasty retreat from trial events, in the presence of small and widely distanced audiences across a raft of sports.
Until this Westminster panic, hopes were as high as a Jumbo jet that Anthony Joshua, Daniel Dubois, Joe Joyce, Dereck Chisora and Oleksandr Usyk would be among those fighting in at least a half-full O2 Arena come October and November.
Now that fan prospect has gone the way of late summer cricket, the first half of a new football season coming indecently hard on the heels of the one just ended, the current world snooker championship, once-Glorious Goodwood and F1 racing – back behind closed doors.
Hopes that venues such as the 02 Arena would have fans back in them this year are now gone
Sports such as cricket have restarted in England but without spectators inside the stadiums
Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren are making decent fists of their quarantined promotions, in an illuminated back garden and an arc-lit TV studio, respectively.
But these August events are loss leaders which were designed to demonstrate to the authorities that boxing could be staged in a safe Covid-free environment, thereby opening the way to the return of the fans.
So far they have gone off without a virus problem. Not good enough, apparently.
A shallow rise in the mysterious R-rate of public infections has sent ministers into a tail-spin. As has just 10 arriving airline passengers among tens of thousands testing positive for Covid-19, Even though fatality rates are nose-diving.
As Warren is not shy to remind them: ‘There are countless young and aspiring fighters out there who have lost their day jobs to the pandemic and are now not earning enough from boxing to put food on the table.
Eddie Hearn’s novel idea of hosting a fight camp at his own home successfully came to fruition
Frank Warren has also done a sterling job of getting shows on despite the tricky circumstances
‘We promoters are making a loss putting work the way of as many as we can but we can’t go on doing this forever.’
Just, by the way, as Rishi Sunak can’t keep subsidising 80 per cent of wages to people who are unemployed without bankrupting Britain’s entire economy.
Boris Johnson and his government’s response after response to this crisis is more knee-jerk than a right hook from Iron Mike Tyson.
There are so many vital areas where the details and implications of policy are not thought through.
Like on-off travel bans, their belief that anyone older than themselves should be locked up, blocking families from having dinner together while the real threat of mass infection comes from mass protest marches through cities and raving street and beach parties which rage on virtually uninterrupted.
Locking boxing fans out when people are still going to the pub is a form of madness
Sport is important, too. Football is the long-held panacea of the masses and as such has a key part to play in the mental health of the public.
Boxing, in frequent polls, comes second as the most popular sport among working men – and now more and more women.
Locking the people out – when it has been proved that games can be played and contests fought with less risk than going to the pub – is another form of madness.