It’s not quite yet business as usual in the state of California, but still far enough advanced for boxing to enjoy a triumphant return.
Concerns over events once again being canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic were removed after California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) confirmed plans to proceed with its currently scheduled combat sports events. An emergency regulation was approved, which allows for boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) to still take place even at a time when non-essential businesses remain hamstrung by the state’s most recent stay-at-home order.
“This is a tremendous safety and mitigation strategy,” John Carvelli, head chair of CSAC declared in an official statement on Wednesday. “CSAC has developed tactics through this regulation that focus on prevention, testing, and, in the event of a positive COVID-19 test, isolation. CSAC is doing everything it can to ensure the likelihood of transmission is low.”
Boxing will lead the charge, beginning with a DAZN-streamed event this Friday, live from Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. Headlining the show, 2019 Prospect of the Year Vergil Ortiz Jr. (15-0, 15KOs) begins the ascension toward title contention as he faces Canada’s Samuel Vargas.
Their bout tops a show which continues the long-standing relationship between Golden Boy Promotions and Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. The difference in their latest collaboration is that Friday’s show and all cards for the foreseeable future will take place without fans in attendance.
“We are very excited to be hosting boxing events again,” Oscar De La Hoya, chairman and CEO of Golden Boy said. “We wanted to come back as soon as we possibly could, while also keeping in mind that we must do this as safely and responsibly as possible.”
Golden Boy Promotions has also confirmed a second summer show at the venue. Jorge Linares and Javier Fortuna will collide in a battle of former multi-division titlists, taking place August 28 also on DAZN.
Only essential personnel will be permitted on site, an unwavering condition placed by the regulatory board. As has been the case with Top Rank’s events in Las Vegas for the past six weeks, all personnel must remain confined to an assigned quarantine bubble. Entrance will be permitted only upon testing negative for COVID-19, at which point all parties—boxers, confirmed team members, ring officials, commission members and the promotional team—are not permitted to leave the grounds until check-out following the event.
Per the CSAC release, the COVID protocol will remain in place until California is able to enter Phase Four of the Resilience Roadmap from state governor Gavin Newsome.
Boxing has not taken place anywhere in California since March 6, with its spring schedule decimated by the ongoing global health crisis. The state led the way with 101 boxing shows in 2019—far more than any other state—but has been limited to just 13 in this health-stricken year.
Friday’s show will mark one of two on the weekend. Thompson Boxing is planning an independent Pay-Per-View event on Sunday, live from Omega Products International in Corona, California.
An official announcement is still pending, but there are plans in place for Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) to stage its Fox Sports-branded events live from Los Angeles beginning August 8. As a policy, neither PBC nor Fox Sports offer comment on events that have yet to be publicly revealed.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox