Fightful Boxing Newsletter (4/16/2020) Table Of Contents:
- Where Do We Stand With Boxing (Pages 1-2)
- Deep Dive Into Each Weight Class: Heavyweights (Page 3)
- Fightful Boxing Rankings (Pages 4-5)
Where Do We Stand With Boxing?
For weeks, many were starting to get the impression that boxing’s current hiatus as a result of the ongoing situation regarding COVID-19, but now there is optimism surrounding the sport’s potential return in the United States.
Just days after the state of Florida issued an executive order that deemed not just WWE part of an essential service, but all employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience. This meant that any potential sports entity, in this case a promotional entity such as Top Rank Boxing, could theoretically find a way to resume boxing later this year.
Days ago, WWE was given the green light to resume airing live episodes of Raw and SmackDown from the WWE Performance Center. An April 9 memo from the governor's office had recent additions to the list of "essential services" in Florida that include "employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience -- including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production -- only if the location is closed to the general public."
With that in mind, Arum could potentially use that memo as a way to return to doing live boxing shows later this year. Talking to ESPN, Arum said he might talk to WWE and see if it is at all possible to use their facilities to stage boxing cards with no fans allowed to enter, noting the relationship he has with Vince McMahon and WWE. However, Arum noted that if something were to come to fruition between both sides, don't expect anything to happen before June.
"It's very, very interesting, and we're going to be in touch with them. There's a possibility to use their facility to maybe do events without a crowd. We're very close with Vince [McMahon] and the WWE. So let's see, but we're still not talking before June. We haven't had a lot of new content since the middle of March. Here we are in the middle of April, and if people are being told to stay closer to the house, it sure does help to have some fresh things to be able to do," Arum said.
Several boxing shows promoted by Top Rank have been affected as a result, with fighters such as Tyson Fury, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez Naoya Inoue, Jose Ramirez, Andrew & Jason Moloney among others set to fight in the coming months. Not too mention Top Rank guys like WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford were close to having a fight
In regards to Fury, who is earmarked for a trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder, and other major fights, Arum noted that those types of shows are not happening until fans are allowed to attend events, which is understandable given the seven figure loss in the live gate for some of those fights, especially Fury’s likely third fight against Wilder and Lomachenko’s lightweight title unification against Lopez.
"Those are either going to have to wait till you have spectators, or if the fighters get antsy, they will have to deal with an adjustment in their purses because you will have cut off an important revenue source from the event. For example, [Tyson] Fury and [Deontay] Wilder, the gate was close to $17 million, and that's from the public buying tickets to the fight. How do you replace that? Well, if you don't replace it -- then somebody has to eat that," Arum said.
Of course, this should be taken with the biggest grain of salt given the unpredictable nature of this situation, which changes almost on an hourly basis. More often than not, boxing companies from all over the world have been very cautious in regards to scheduling shows.
As far as the boxers are concerned, there are two schools of thought when it comes to empty arena shows, regardless of WWE's involvement. Those against empty arena shows, or at least major fights at empty arenas, argue that not only is there a massive financial loss to not having events producing seven, sometimes eight-figure live gates, but that championship fights shouldn't be fought in those types of environments in the first place.
Not to mention the fact that you can take every precaution imaginable when it comes to staging these empty arena shows, but if you have two fighters in the same ring, with a referee in between them, there will always be a risk of someone getting hit with the virus. It should also be noted that the WWE Performance Center is in Florida, which has been one of the states hit hardest by COVID-19 with more than 22,000 confirmed cases, and likely more when factoring in those who are dealing with COVID-19, but haven't been tested to confirm that.
While there is a lot of truth to the business and health aspects to that argument, championship fights being held with virtually no fans in attendance isn't exactly unheard of. There was a small period between late 2018 and early 2019 where there were multiple world title fights in the United States that were un-televised and took place after the main event. One particular case was the IBF minimumweight title between Carlos Licona and Mark Anthony Barrega that took place after the first Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury fight in Los Angeles in 2018 and there were only perhaps a handful of spectators that were present.
Even if it is a for a title at minimumweight (a weight class with virtually no following in the United States), the concept of world title fights being contested without fans isn't something that hasn't been done (even if it was not intentional).
The argument for empty arena shows being made are to give boxers an opportunity to fight and make money while providing new content for those sitting at home. Of course, many boxers who want to do everything in their power to make these fights happen also would like to be assured that every precaution has been made in order to ensure minimal risk.
Even top boxers are in favor of doing these types of shows just to be able to get out there and fighters. WBA "Regular" super flyweight champion Andrew Moloney and top bantamweight contender Jason Moloney, both of whom signed with Top Rank months ago and were in line for massive world title fights if they had won their respective fights that were taking place in April, told Fightful they would be in favor of fighting in empty arena shows if given the chance.
"It's a difficult one. Were fighters and we want to fight. Were training hard and as soon as we have the green light to go, we're going to jump at it. I'm open to that,"Jason said.
"Sign me up as well," Andrew said.
The Top Rank/WWE dynamic is interesting and there has been some collaboration between the two, even if it was an indirect collaboration. Fury, who is promoted by Top Rank as well as Frank Warren's Queensberry Promotions, did appear on WWE programming in 2019 after his fight against Otto Wallin and even had a short feud with current Universal Champion Braun Strowman that resulted in a match between the two in Saudi Arabia.
Even if its small, that alone could get the ball rolling in getting both sides to talk. WWE might even be willing to help out Top Rank if WWE were to receive some type of cut as the company is currently going through layoffs in order to save up on roughly $4 million per month.
Again, it should be noted that such shows are still unlikely to happen in this current climate in the next few months, but it does give a glimpse as to what some of the top boxing promotions are thinking about when it comes to running shows once again.
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