As plans progress to reintroduce live boxing events to American viewing audiences, Bob Arum and the Top Rank team continue to sift through the best possible scenario for keeping the bulk of its stable active.
The other trick is to figure out when to roll out the fights they are for now forced to hold back, as well as determine the biggest possible fight that can be presented under current circumstances.
“Well, for now we know for sure we won’t be doing the super big fights,” Arum acknowledged to BoxingScene.com. “There’s no way you can do a (Deontay) Wilder-(Tyson) Fury heavyweight championship fight without an audience. We’re working diligently with the PBC (Premier Boxing Champions and its creator, Al Haymon) to get a spot where we can do that Pay-Per-View fight and possibly stage it out of the country.”
Fury-Wilder III is among a slew of fights currently on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which has shut down boxing and just about everything else in the world since mid-March. The Hall of Fame promoter has been active in working on a plan to stage closed-doors boxing events live on ESPN and its platforms from an undisclosed location in Las Vegas. A suggested starting date of June 9 has been reported by some outlets, although there remain several kinks to work out before firmly moving forward with a firm starting point
Unbeaten featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson has been teased as the headliner for the planned summer series premiere, though in a non-title fight at 130 pounds. Other titlists such as 122-pound ruler Emanuel Navarrete, 130-pound title claimant Miguel Berchelt and 108-pound belthodler Elwin Soto have all been mentioned for potential slots to fill in Mexico City, although that situation remains fluid at best.
On the U.S. side of the border, reigning 130-pound titlist Jamel Herring will likely be the first to actually defend his title on the circuit. The 34-year old southpaw and decorated U.S. Marine is eying a voluntary defense on or around Independence Day, willing to take a stay-busy fight in a fanless environment while waiting out a higher-profile showdown versus former two-division champion Carl Frampton either later this year or in 2021.
Of the big fights Top Rank had planned for the late spring and into the summer, most if not all will either wait until 2021 or reroute to a country where mass gatherings aren’t quite as discouraged. At best, a lightweight unification bout between Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10KOs) and Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12KOs) could become a near-future treat for boxing fans at the expense of coming without a crowd.
“Lomanchenko-Lopez, it’s not that kind of huge money fight like Wilder and Fury,” Arum notes, though also noting that such a fight would be contingent upon current travel restrictions being lifted. “Loma is back home in the Ukraine where he’s bene working hard, but can we get him in here under the protocols that exist now? So, hopefully in the interim we can get Teofimo Lopez a fight in the interim. As far as Loma is concerned, there’s nothing we can do until we are able to get him here.”
There also exists the dilemma of when sporting events can play out to fans in attendance—and even if so, at what capacity.
“For me, there’s no assurance we can do a big fight for a live audience this year,” admits Arum. “I think towards the end of the year, like foothall you’ll see live audiences but 10,000 people spread out in a 70,000 seat arena. If you translate that into boxing, you’re talking about 1,500 at most if you’re lucky. That won’t help with the live gate.
“So for for those big fights, especially with Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, we’re looking for a place outside of the U.S. The same with our heavyweight Kubrat Pulev, who is getting ready to challenge (unified heavyweight titlist) Anthony Joshua. Eddie (Hearn, Joshua’s promoter and managing director of Matchroom Boxing) is looking for a place outside the U.K. for Joshua-Pulev.
“We’re all in constant contact with each other. Working together to get this done. None of it is ideal, but we have to keep planning for the future and what has become the new normal for everyone.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox