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British Boxing Board refuses to sanction closed-door events during COVID-19 pandemic

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Fans, no fans, it doesn’t matter to the British Boxing Board of Control.

British Lionhearts v Ukraine Otamans - World Series of Boxing Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Don’t expect boxing to restart in the United Kingdom any time soon, and that’s whether or not there are fans in attendance.

British Boxing Board of Control general secretary Robert Smith spoke to the Daily Mail about why they won’t allow boxing events to proceed even behind closed doors during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The well-being of all those involved is paramount. In our case, it is impossible to maintain social distancing between two boxers,” Smith said. “No fighter can hit another from a range of two metres. And what about the closeness of the referee, the contact between fighters and their corners, the proximity of officials and cameramen?

This is a sound and sensible take from a commission official. You would think this same logic applies to every other combat sport, but that isn’t stopping the UFC or Cage Warriors from running cards in parts unknown. Maybe MMA is impervious to the virus when it comes to violating physical distancing guidelines.

Smith also raised the point of medical staffing and allocating already stretched resources for boxing shows, which are decidedly not essential and often have at least a handful of combatants needing immediate hospitalization.

“Other medical issues are in some ways even more important,” he added. “Even if we could persuade the doctors and medics who it is necessary for us to have at ringside at all promotions to attend, how on earth could we justify asking them to take time away from saving lives during this crisis?

“Injuries happen in all sports. What if a boxer is badly hurt and needing to go by ambulance to hospital? I tell you this. It is absolutely unconscionable that we would even consider asking any hospital to give up a bed while thousands of people are dying from this virus.’

As of last week, the BBBofC has nixed all boxing events through the end of May, which has shelved some notable Matchroom Boxing cards, including Dillian Whyte vs. Alexander Povetkin (May 2) and Oleksandr Usyk vs. Dereck Chisora (May 23). Anthony Joshua vs. Kubrat Pulev, slated for June 20th, has also been pushed back until at least July.