As expensive as it has become to sufficiently follow boxing these days, having to pay for events that don’t take place is a reasonable place to draw the line.
Unfortunately, it’s the grim reality facing fans who’ve purchased tickets for recent boxing events which were removed from the schedule in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Two such shows which have caught attention were to be presented by Top Rank live from Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
The March 14 edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN was to feature unbeaten featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson (13-0, 7KOs) in a voluntary title defense versus Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga (29-3, 25KOs). Three days later, Belfast’s Michael Conlan (13-0, 7KOs) was to appear at the venue in his fourth consecutive St. Patrick’s Day headliner versus Colombia’s Belmar Preciado (20-2-1, 13KOs).
Both shows were ultimately postponed upon the insistence of the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), complying with state government and CDC (Center for Disease Control) guidelines initially limiting event gatherings to no more than 250 people.
The initial alternate plan was to stage both cards behind closed doors, a declaration which was made public on March 12th at roughly 1:00pm ET. Less than eight hours later came the announcement that both shows were postponed altogether—which gave Ticketmaster its leverage to not refund payments made for tickets purchased to either event.
“As of [Sunday afternoon], refunds are not available for any of the postponed shows,” read the message from a Ticketmaster fan support representative to BoxingScene.com upon seeking clarification. “We encourage [customers] to keep checking our website as we are receiving updates from promoters throughout the day.
“Currently, we are not issuing refunds for postponed events the event is officially cancelled.”
The ruling applies across the board and is not limited to boxing events. While the latest update from event handlers is that both shows were postponed—understandable, as the boxers involved are undoubtedly owed fight dates once boxing action resumes—it was an official alert from earlier in the day that could become a legal nightmare.
In best efforts to salvage the pair of Hulu Theater shows amidst the health crisis, the insistence of staging both cards behind closed doors was accompanied with specific language. According to a press statement, “the March 14 and March 17 events at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden will proceed without spectators. The only individuals granted access to the events will be essential production and support staff, in addition to fighters and necessary team members, and credentialed media. Both events will still be shown live on their respective ESPN platforms.
“Full refunds for tickets purchased for the March 14 and March 17 events will be available at the point of purchase.”
That very disclaimer has been submitted to Ticketmaster outlets by numerous customers, BoxingScene.com has learned, only to get stuck in a loop as the ticket service has kicked back the responsibility to the promoter.
Other shows which have been canceled outright clearly indicated the necessary steps to receive a point-of-purchase refund.
The March 14 edition of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on FS1 was due to take place at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The event was formally canceled on March 12 in the afternoon—squarely in between Top Rank’s pair of announcements going through with its shows before pulling both—and with clear instructions regarding ticket refund policy.
“All ticket orders will be refunded from your original point of purchase,” read a statement from PBC’s press office. “If you have purchased online through Ticketmaster, all orders will be refunded automatically. If you have purchased with a credit card on property or over the phone with MGM Resorts, all orders will be refunded automatically.
“Credit Cards - Orders purchased with a credit card will be refunded to the credit card used for purchase. Third Party Purchases - Please reach out to your original point of purchase for information regarding your credit.”
The same approach was taken for a St. Patrick’s Day-themed show in Boston, also to have taken place on March 14. Event promoters Murphys Boxing officially canceled the show on March 12 after speaking directly with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, collectively agreeing that the decision to follow suit with the rest of the sports and entertainment world far outweighed the risk of proceeding as planned for the sake of putting business ahead of personal health. Consumers were urged to contact their point-of-purchase for a full refund, including those who purchased tickets directly from boxers.
The season two finale of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) cruiserweight tournament was scheduled to take place March 21 in Riga, Latvia before word came on March 14 of the show being definitively postponed. Tournament organizers Comosa AG took a deliberate approach in spreading the word, initially holding out hope of proceeding as planned until having to succumb to a mandate from the Latvian government in accordance with the CDC regarding the number of people permitted to attend an event.
A press release announcement on March 14 alerted the media and general public of the event being postponed, complete with a rescheduled date of May 16 and also to take place at Riga Arena. Also noted in the statement was that all tickets purchased for March 21 would remain valid for the new date, while there wasn’t any mention nor promise of refund options for ticket holders inconvenienced by the change.
Michelle ‘Raging Babe’ Rosado was one of the few promoters who had a rescheduled fight date in place yet still exclusively offered refunds for the originally scheduled show. Her ‘Philly Special’ card was due to air March 27 live on Impact Network from 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia. The show has since been moved to June 19, but not before issuing full refunds to the virtually sold-out card (just 66 tickets remained at the time the show was postponed on March 13) and pointing out that any existing tickets for March 27 would be voided out and not made available for the rescheduled June 19 date.
Matchroom Boxing took a mixed approach to its slew of events planned for March and April, although offering full refund options for all shows either moved off of its original date or cancelled outright.
A show planned for April 4 at Utilita Arena in Newcastle, England—topped by Lewis Ritson versus former lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez—was rescheduled to June 27. Similarly, unbeaten 130-pound titlist Terri Harper saw her first title defense versus Natasha Jonas moved from April 24 to a yet-to-be-confirmed exact fight date in June, though remaining at Doncaster Arena in Doncaster, England.
Both shows came with the clear indication that previously issued tickets will remain valid for the rescheduled dates, but also come with the option for consumers to request a refund. Meanwhile, the March 28 show to have taken place at London’s The O2—featuring European welterweight titlist David Avanesyan in a title defense versus unbeaten Josh Kelly—was canceled outright with ticket refunds available at the original point of purchase.
As it relates to any remaining shows in limbo, fans can expect—and will demand—one of two things to happen: a definitive update as to when those shows will be rescheduled; or confirmation of said events being canceled, followed by clear instructions for a full refund.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox