BRITISH fight fans will be rejoicing next week when boxing resumes hostilities on TV after suffering four miserable months in quarantine.
The ceasefire ends a week today when Frank Warren features Brad Foster’s British and Commonwealth super-bantamweight title defence against James Beech at BT’s Stratford studios.
And next month rival Eddie Hearn will be promoting a series of shows on Sky from the grounds of his Essex HQ, in what’s become known as Matchroom Square Garden.
They will be taking place behind closed doors with everyone involved having to comply with the British Boxing Board of Control’s expensive but necessary rules to protect against the coronavirus.
The Board sent a document almost as long as War and Peace to their licensed promoters setting out the strict regulations required.
Warren estimated it will cost at least £20,000 to carry out the new health and safety requirements. As he and Hearn have lucrative TV deals they can absorb the extra expense. But I’m afraid the small-hall shows, the lifeblood of the sport, are in serious trouble.
We are unlikely to see boxing at the 1,200- seater York Hall, Bethnal Green, for another year — and maybe even longer than that.
York Hall is the home of the real, knowledgeable fans and it’s where Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno, John Conteh, Lloyd Honeyghan, Maurice Hope, Alan Minter, Ricky Hatton, Carl Froch, Kell Brook and many of our other world champions cut their teeth.
When I spoke to Steve Goodwin and Mark Prior, who between them and without TV backing promote more than 20 shows there every year, they were full of gloom.
Goodwin said “York Hall is 90 years old and the shower and dressing room facilities don’t measure up to the Boxing Board’s new safety standards. Without the small halls, boxing in this country will struggle.”
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Prior sent me the figures he budgeted for a typical fight night in the present climate.
On top of the normal expenses for catering, staff, ambulance, etc, they included two nights’ hotel stay for 60 people (£4,200), £7,200 for Covid testing and £1,000 for PPE — taking the total expenditure to £48,350. Without fans, the income was nil.
You don’t have to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer to realise why York Hall will remain dark way into the future.