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Robert Smith of BBBofC outlines plans for UK boxing return in July

Image: Robert Smith of BBBofC outlines plans for UK boxing return in July

By Mehmood Ahmad: Robert Smith, general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, has spoken to IFLTV regarding their press release detailing initial plans for a return of boxing in the UK in July.

Events would be behind closed doors, a maximum of five fights per event would be allowed with all involved undergoing stringent testing for the Coronavirus.

Lots have discussions have been ongoing, and it does make sense for there to be a limit on the number of fights per night. Five fights mean ten boxers, their respective trainers and teams, medical staff, and officials, which could result in up to a hundred people if not more. The idea is to start with this number of five fights and then review once a couple has events that have taken place.

There would be no usual fight week build-up to start with, no public press conferences, public workouts, or public weigh-ins initially.

Smith stated to IFL TV; it would be “more than likely all involved would be put into one hotel and isolate there.” The plan would be to start the week leading up to the fight with all taking a test, isolating, and waiting for the results, which would take approximately 24-48 hours. All being well, they would take another test 48 hours before the fight date to get the results back by fight day.

There is no doubt logistically speaking this is going to be difficult. Assuming they take the test on the Monday of fight week, it would be reasonable to think the results would be back by Wednesday, after which all involved would then retest on a Thursday to get the results back by Friday evening or the morning of the fight on a Saturday.

If they do decide for all participants to stay in one hotel and one fighters test comes back with a positive result, it is unclear what the procedure would be at this stage. I am assuming it would be just that fighters contest that would be called off and not the whole event. Strict isolation policies would need to be adhered to, especially if all involved are to be staying in one hotel while waiting for test results.

It is important to note that Smith sensibly made it clear they “would not be jumping the queue for tests” and “key workers take priority.” He stated, “boxing is a sport where people always look for us to get it wrong; we have to make sure we get it right.” It was revealing to hear him speak this way regarding issues board members are probably always facing in the background when trying to popularise the sport.

We all know the sport is still not entirely accepted in some parts of society despite the clear benefits it can bring to those that take part. Therefore, it will be essential to ensure public support for events taking place, taking steps to prove it is safe for all involved, and no medical staff or equipment are being used at the expense of the general public.

Smith accepted they are “moving into something they have never dealt with before and will need to learn.” He is adamant they will take things slowly, put the work in now to get procedures right at the start rather than having issues later and keep things as simple as possible before looking to increase the scale of events at a later date once the correct reviews have taken place.

There are still lots of details to be worked out in the upcoming weeks. Smith said only UK officials would be used to start with; they are considering whether standby opponents will be available if a fighter does have to pull out. It is likely only the boxer, trainer, referee, and medic will be allowed into the ring.

Any extras such as independent media outlets, MC’s and interviewers that do not take priority to get the show on will not be considered initially. It would seem like there would just be one TV crew to film the action for the network involved to make sure there as few people in the venue as possible.

Regarding venues, Smith believes there will be “limited on options with arenas to start with.” As it will be behind closed doors, he “would expect a TV studio, purpose-built, or relatively new venue to be used to make sure it is as sterile as possible.”

He cannot see large venues being used and reasonably questions whether we will be able to have live support at venues at all this year. There is no doubt it could be some time yet and likely will depend on how the Premier League football season proceeds with its policies on live crowds.

Smith confirmed promoters would be sent plans to gain their input. There will need to be a lot of communication between various departments, safety advice taken from relevant medical teams, and at the end of the day, all will depend on how the government policies unfold over the next month for there to be any return to action that is for sure.

Surprisingly Smith commented that “knowing the industry we’re in I would expect a show clash fairly quickly, we will need to make sure we’ve got the qualified officials, and I hope promoters will work together, but I’m a realist, and at some point, there will be clashes.”

We do all want boxing to be back as soon as possible, but it must be safe, and you would assume promoters will be able to put their difference aside to ensure events can be spread out, initially at least. Rather tellingly Smith concluded by saying, “if not July, August, if not August, September, but… we will be back”.

As it won’t be easy for foreign fighters to come to these shores for some time, it is exciting to think of the amount of substantial domestic fights that could be lining up once the action returns and intriguing to see how the product will look on our TV screens. I’m remembering tales captured on old documentaries of families gathering around the radio to listen in to the big fights in the ’70s.

OK, so it won’t be quite the same, but it’s going to be an exciting time watching the whole thing unfold on our TVs over the coming months.

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