Boxing Expert & Columnist
Boxers must retain their professionalism in a difficult time for the sport, says Johnny Nelson
Last Updated: 18/03/20 3:48pm
After the coronavirus created major disruption of worldwide sporting events, we have analysed how boxing will be affected by the ongoing pandemic.
Major boxing bills have already been postponed throughout the world, with the Nevada State Athletic Commission suspending all events until March 25, and the British Boxing Board of Control has cancelled all public tournaments under its jurisdiction until it reviews the situation in April.
Sky Sports expert Johnny Nelson and welterweight prospect Dan Morley have given their opinion on how the Coronavirus could influence every level of professional boxing.
Will fighters be willing to perform behind closed doors?
Nelson: They may have no choice, it's that simple, because the show might have to go on. They have to get paid, it's their living, so realistically they have no choice. This is their job.
How would a boxer cope without a crowd?
Nelson: It will impact their performances. When you're used to going out to box in front of an audience of 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, and there's nobody there, it does make a lot of difference to your performance.
You've still got to make sure you're eating right, you're sleeping right, you're prepping right, and then it's the performance itself. When you might have to perform in front of maybe nobody, that's when it really counts.
Boxers are used to being in the gym, sparring, but you step it up a level when it comes to a fight, you come out of yourself. But remember, a lot of our amateur stars when they're travelling around the world, people don't realise that they are boxing in half empty halls. Now it's about professionalism, you have a job to do. The fighters who need the crowd, need that backing, need that lift, they will always fall short.
You've still got to make sure you're eating right, you're sleeping right, you're prepping right, and then it's the performance itself. When you might have to perform in front of maybe nobody, that's when it really counts. It's about you. I think a lot of fighters will learn so much about themselves, if that happens and they have to fight in those conditions.
Do you think that is a likely scenario, if the sport does continue?
Nelson: Yes, that's what I can see happening, but then again, some fighters live off the tickets sales. That's their fight purse. How does that affect them? The pressure is on the promoters, who want to put shows on. If you haven't got the backing of television, they are the shows that will suffer, where you are dependent on bums on seats.
What about the financial implications for the biggest shows?
Nelson: Like football, most of the revenue is from television. The attendance makes a big difference as well, but a lot of it is TV money. If you didn't have such a massive attendance like Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where would the fight be staged?
Big world title fights can be delayed, because it's a worldwide attraction.
Will postponements put off major potential fights like Anthony Joshua against Tyson Fury?
Nelson: Yes, it just slows everyone down. You shouldn't lose your opportunity.
It gives boxers more time in the gym, because your travel is restricted and all you can do is train. This is all about professionalism. How your attitude is when you have that free time. It's a good time to learn.
If gyms close, how else can boxers prepare?
Nelson: I'm sure boxers will find some way to train, even if it's in their garage at home. They will find a way.
In boxing, fighters can always find a means to train. It's always been that way and I don't think anything will stop that. Just because you don't see the hi-tech gyms, doesn't mean the sport stops. Boxing will survive.
A current fighter's verdict
I'm no expert on the Coronavirus, but with the way it continues spreading and how severe it's global impact has become in such a short period of time is alarming.
With major sporting events being cancelled all around the world for the foreseeable future, it is worrying for those with their own big fights that remained scheduled within the next few weeks.
With gyms verified as being hotspots for the spread of Coronavirus and self isolation becoming the norm for a common cold, it's unsure what will happen on a day by day basis. Athletes cutting weight could become more prone to feeling serious effects of the virus due to the strain put on the bodies immune system when dropping the last few kilos. Large gatherings look to be banned within the next few days, having a serious knock on effect for small hall shows ticket sales, which are the very thing that keep those shows running and fighters heads above water financially.
No one seems to know how severe the implications of this virus will become, so in my case I will remain focused, continue training, eating the right foods and just take things on a day to day basis. Ultimately, halting your sporting career for a short while is a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things, if that has to be the case to prevent people falling ill.