Step by step, the pieces are falling back into place for boxing’s return to the United States.
Top Rank will be the first promotional company out the gate, as the Las Vegas-based outfit plans to hit the ground running with a slew of summer dates to air live on ESPN and ESPN+. As previously reported by BoxingScene.com, the first of the lot will come June 9 from a closed-doors location to be determined in Las Vegas, pending approval from the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) who will meet on Wednesday with the allowance of combat sports to take place in state as part of its agenda hearing.
Assuming the motion is granted, it will pave the way for boxing in the U.S. for the first time since mid-March.
“We should begin on or about June 9,” ESPN’s Mark Kriegel confirmed Saturday evening on air while joined by network colleagues Andre Ward and Joe Tessitore to otherwise host a marathon of Mike Tyson fights. “Shakur Stevenson will fight at 130 pounds but will not give up his 126-pound title. He will see what the new weight feels like. Mikaela Mayer in the co-main.
“We will see some other familiar [Top Rank] faces after that. Gabriel Flores, Josh Greer (and Jessie Magdaleno).”
Stevenson (13-0, 7KOs) was due to headline an ESPN-televised card on March 14 from Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City. The show was among the first wave of scheduling casualties amidst the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. At the time, conversation took place whether to close off the event to the public in order to at least move forward with the fights.
That decision was ultimately scrapped by the New York State Athletic Commission in conjunction with health and safety guidelines. The overwhelming concern was the lack of COVID-19 testing in place, a subject which Top Rank has extensively explored with the Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force.
“As far as the testing protocol is concerned, when you get to what we presume Vegas at presumably an MGM property, you will be tested [and immediately quarantined] for a period of 4-6 hours,” Kriegel revealed. “Once you test negative for the virus, you can come into the bubble. You do not leave that bubble without getting tested back in.”
Stevenson will reportedly face Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo (13-1-2, 9KOs) atop the June 9 card. Both boxers along with all participants will be due to report to Las Vegas in time for testing and required quarantine period in order to be eligible to fight, as will be the case for every scheduled ESPN card in the forseeable future. All shows will remain closed to the public, with only essential personnel permitted on site.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox