Philippines, 29 May 2024
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Bob Arum.
Since the coronavirus pandemic knocked down boxing for the count last February, in a couple of weeks, it will finally try to stand up and continue to fight, thanks to Bob Arum and Top Rank.

It will, however, not the same sport that we knew as this time the setting will be totally different from anything we've seen or imagined. For one, Las Vegas, the world's entertainment capital where Top Rank will hold its event on June 9, is a ghost town. And two, there will be no spectators to the event.

“We have never been into anything like this even remotely before,” Arum said during an interview with Australian promoter and Philboxing contributor Peter Maniatis. “I am 88 and I've never seen anything like this in my lifetime and so hopefully, intelligently we find a way of doing what we can before we're able to operate in the normal way we did in the past.”

Arum said that his team at Top Rank headed by Brad Jacobs is working very hard in coordination with the Nevada Boxing Commission and the Nevada State health authority to design a program where boxing returns in Las Vegas but at the same time the health of all participants are protected.

The Las Vegas strip, normally teeming with people 24 hours a day, is uncharacteristically empty due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Arum explained: “This is a very complicated situation because right now with the coronavirus, everything opening up slowly in the States. Some people say premature for the opening so boxing has to proceed with caution. And we have been working exclusively with the Nevada Commission because our headquarters are in Nevada. And we have together with State health authority, with the coronavirus czar in Nevada, worked out of protocols where we can start doing fights as early as June 9 on a basis where there are no spectators, everybody is tested and we're gonna be doing two to three events every week throughout the summer.

“We have what we call a bubble where we made an arrangement with the MGM Grand where they've given us one whole floor and we keep the participants on that floor. And nobody comes in to the bubble unless they've been tested and they test negative. And once they test negative they're in to the bubble and we bused them to our gym which is sanitized and sterilized in Nevada and its about a half mile away. And they do their work and so forth and they eat in a restaurant in the hotel just for that group. And then on the night of the fight they're all tested again. Everybody, every fighter every cornerman, the commission, the referee, judges, the camera people. Everybody gets tested again. And fortunately Nevada has enough test so that's not a problem and we can get the result of the test within two hours. So everybody is now tested and if some way that I can't figure out somebody gets positive is obviously off the card and that fighter lost.”

Arum said that with so many fighters in the Top Rank stable, he could easily fill up the two to three events per week which would have a maximum of five fights per card and three hours television time. But with so many countries still banning international travel, Arum said they could only use fighters who are now in the US.

Arum projected that by September or October, they could start allowing spectators to the venue and by the end of the year, things could go back to normal.

“Hopefully maybe by September or October we will be able to do fights on a limited basis with spectators. For example we put a protocol that in a 15,000 seat arena we allow seating for two to twenty five hundred spectators. But that's all in the future. We'll proceed cautiously and hopefully by the fourth quarter of the year we'll be back to normal or almost normal,” Arum said.

Arum hoped that what they will be doing in Las Vegas starting June 9 will become a template for other boxing promoters to follow as the world tries to return to a life before the outbreak.

But as the familiar saying in boxing goes “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” could well apply in the current situation. Without a clear medicine or vaccine to stop the outbreak, a second or third wave of infections could probably render any sound plan futile and useless.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Dong Secuya.

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