COVID-19 STOPS BOXING FOR MONTHS, THOUGHTS FROM TIME AWAY FROM BOXING
Most of my adult life, sports have structured it, and most of the people on social media only follow me for my opinions on boxing despite, what I might think at times.
I have found it comforting having a built-in schedule during the week knowing I could watch something when free based on athletic competition, and judging by the rest of the world I feel a lot of people relate. You can work, train, go to school and see forms of competition to relax, and unwind. It is simple, it is easy and it is intuitive.
Sure, movies and books are great, but the basic art of competition is something that is not replicated, ever, to me.
For the past five days, sports have ended, for until what seems like the start of June as the United States based on advice from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated staying inside based on the pandemic, COVID-19, a highly contagious illness, that could be lethal to older adults and those with compromised autoimmune systems, is the best course of action to limit the curve in the pandemics growth. For the past few days, humanity has won, as big corporate dollars have been put to the wayside, as people have opted to stay inside to limit the curve of the virus in the United States, something in the modern era, is not common – altruism over profit.
Now besides some boneheaded posts on social media from people you might follow talking about how they won’t stop living their life, not taking into account that they could transmit the illness to someone who can’t fight it off, exposing the worst aspects of social media, narcissism, and self-righteousness, or some people pushing down your throat their own righteousness, which is bred in these various social media platforms, we’re seeing how words have been weaponized to cause panic.
Trusted sources are now discredited, and numbers are used in context to prove someone is right, rather than for study. In short, everyone is confused, and we are limited to what we can do, so we’re going inside our own heads, which sometimes can be the worst option.
For me it is simple, if possible you stay home to limit those exposed, in many major cities the hospitals are limited to 16,000 beds, and if you do simple math in major metropolitan cities, if everyone got sick at the same time, it could cause a major issue, along with the fact that the hospital would be, more than likely one of the most dangerous places to be, in general, based on the contamination and that the hospitals would pick and choose who they’d serve if they’re filled to capacity. That being said, some people financially don’t have that option.
The truth is we have no clue how bad this will be? We can hope it is nothing, or overprepare in hopes of lessening the damage, but time will tell. It isn’t about being right or wrong – it is about being safe.
COVID-19 may or may not be a murderous disease, we have no clue, yet, since we haven’t seen the long-term ramifications from the illness, but the financial impact will be felt for years as the economy will shrink, as people going inward, will not inspire people to buy items they have always wanted as simply entering stores for some, might be overwhelming.
So how does this relate to sports or boxing? The production, stagehands, lighting crew, and many others, invest countless hours to set-up a professional set, but now are unemployed, due to this pandemic. Whole industries are being destroyed, and close friends of mine are scared that they might get fired since where they work, might not need them for months and plan ways of existing without them. We have worked hard to undercut costs over the years in this country, so much so that a safety net,doesn’t exist. This is simply the perfect storm for a disaster on many levels. It will be easy for many to feel bitter as they will be treated unfairly.
So let’s say you don’t care about what is happening, you just came here for boxing content, and want to read about that stuff. How does this apply to the fighters?
For the amateur boxers hoping to be Olympians, they’re currently in limbo, as the first qualifier for Team USA has been postponed, and will now tentatively happen in May, though nothing has been set, officially. Essentially, the Olympics are still on, but it is not looking good that we see the Olympics this year.
For professional fighters, many are living check-to-check, not just in boxing, but working a separate job on top of training full-time. Many professional boxers looking for an opportunity with an undefeated record, but low five-figure salaries at best might force them to look to other means to provide for their family or themselves as the financial burden might make professional boxing unfeasible. As medical bills, lack of employment, mortgage payments, debt, etc will increase over the coming months.
For the fans, they simply will just be left watching old bouts, in the midst of being scared to death by this virus which is permeating 24-hour news cycles, and will either return to the sport like rabid animals or will the excitement of being able to go out and do stuff, hurt the sport as many fight fans might not want to be couped up after months and months of sitting at home.
One impact of this stoppage of competition in the state of California, as well as the United States, will be; retirements. In golf, a comparable sport to boxing as the professionals are independent contractors, a major outcry of professionals who have struggled to stay on the tour are looking to move on with their life as the shortened season might have been the last draw as this would be another net-negative year when counting paying for travel, coaches and everything that goes into it. A lot of boxers will see financial hardships that might not allow a professional boxing career to continue, this will be true for the G League and minor league baseball players as well. In short, COVID-19 will serve as a dream killer for many in their late 20s, early 30s hoping to make a living out of a professional sport.
In boxing, we have a lot of unknowns. Since this is a force majeure, an act of God, how will contracts be honored? Will fighters who have expiring contracts in May or June see these contracts expire without compensation or even a last fight, as the unforeseen event was not written into the contract, and context will not be placed upon it? None of these are answerable since no one knows the answers, so most are just waiting.
The boxing industry has always functioned as the rich will obtain more, and those below will look to survive, but now it’ll be at the forefront as many fighters, club-show promoters, and smaller market managers, might deeply question if this financial recession that will occur from the virus makes this plentiful. If you own a car dealership and manage boxers, but your first-and-second-quarter earnings drop by 50% percent, it might be hard to find the means to provide much to a boxer, even if you want to. What I expect to see will be hard decisions, being made out of necessity not want.
Oh, and then we have the streaming aspect.
As we are seeing with the UFC, without the state athletic commission imposing themselves, promoters especially with streaming rights and network deals, are more apt to put on shows since no sports are occurring. The difficult thing about COVID-19 is showing that sometimes ‘choice’ can lead to dangerous choices and that a small bit of oversight can help protect fighters from fighting in conditions that they are worried for their health, having to board airplanes, stay in congested hotels rooms, cut weight which depletes the body and then having to be crammed in a locked room full of fighters prior to their bout for ‘let’s say $10,000’, which is before taxes and before they pay their corner.
Essentially with a great demand for sports, and boxing as well as mixed martial arts functioning as the red-light district of sports, despite any warnings, fighters will stay in the gym, hoping to get a call for an opportunity that leads to solid payday, which honestly right now is highly feasible as the market is so bare. The trainers will often follow suit either out of loyalty, necessity or delusions of their own. In fact, a zombie apocalypse could occur a town over, and I am sure at least one fight gym would hold training or at the very least spar a few rounds that day.
The sad part is, some gyms might not take the risk of infectious disease seriously and have gyms that are dirty and unclean, and/or some might be very clean, but find the disease to be so contagious it is inconsequential.
What puts fighters at risk so much is that they’re wired differently. To believe, you can make a living being a pro fighter, you have to be supremely confident as well as believe things won’t happen to you, you’re the outlier. This is something that seedy individuals have prayed upon for years. In dark times, in which a financial recession is imminent, the exploitative nature of the business of fight sports is on full display, for better or worse.
As show after show is canceled, we now just are back to what we once were. Boxing finds the people who are involved in it. The boxing lifers, we’re the outcasts, the misfits, those who don’t quite belong, that is why a fight is so easy for us to understand, being a part of something means so much more, and with it gone, it is like a good book just ended.
I just simply hope this will be something we can kid about one day and not something that changes the course of the next decade, not just for our sport, but for everything.