While professional boxing in the United States is slowly getting back on its feet, it could be out for the count up in the north.
Quebec government officials are currently mulling a proposal that would potentially put a halt to all boxing events in the Canadian province for the foreseeable future, that is, until a vaccine for Covid-19 turns up.
Such a scenario, however, would pose a crippling blow to a rich Quebec boxing scene, according to longtime Quebecois promoters Yvon Michel and Camille Estephan. Both men are befuddled by what they perceive to be the needlessly callous nature of the intended proposal, claiming it is a shortsighted maneuver that fails to take into account the already tenuous livelihood of most professional boxers.
“I think there’s a prejudice against the sport,” Estephan told The Montreal Gazette. “We can’t survive without live events. They’re crucial. We have to find a way within the next couple of months.
Estephan runs Eye of the Tiger Management, which promotes (with Golden Boy) super middleweights David Lemieux, Erik Bazinyan, and heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov, among others. He believes boxers are being unfairly maligned by a bureaucratic power-grab.
“This is an injustice and a lack of respect … a lack of (due) diligence on their part. It’s unacceptable and dictatorial,” Estephan said. “It looks like Julius Caesar in Rome.
“Boxing’s the easiest sport to control when it comes to this virus. There’s not 40 or 50 people in a dressing room. You have the two fighters and the referee who are tested. We have the luxury of only one fighter in the dressing room with two coaches. Compare that to football, hockey or soccer.”
The health ministry of Quebec doesn’t see it that way.
“As the virus is spread mainly by droplets and in enclosed areas, boxing fights increase the risk of spread, taking into account they generally take place indoors,” a spokesperson for the government wrote in an email to The Montreal Gazette. “Sweat, blood and saliva are very present during a fight and even exceed two (meters) when blows are struck between opponents.The risks are therefore greater for a spread. Unlike soccer, which is played outside, ventilation is better, so secretions and droplets don’t stay suspended in the air due to ventilation.”
But that’s hogwash, says rival promoter Michel, who promotes light heavyweight contender Eleider Alvarez and heavyweight Oscar Rivas.
“We demand that there be a serious evaluation for a protocol carried out by competent people that allows professional boxing to return to Québec,” Michel told The Journal of Montréal. “There are ways to move forward (with boxing events) that have been proven, that function and that are 100% effective, and have never led to a single contamination."
Echoing Estephan’s statements, Michel agreed that the Quebecois government seems more interested in creating red tape than actual policy. Now, he and others who make a living from boxing are faced with an existential conundrum.
“They (government officials) not only don’t help us, they want to destroy us,” Michel said. “I can’t believe we’re treated that way. It’s a big lack of respect for what we’ve accomplished … what we’ve invested. We’re not some fly-by-night (business).”
Although Michel has a few fighters who have received dates to fight on American soil – Alvarez is scheduled to face American Joe Smith in a light heavyweight bout in the third week of August in Las Vegas on ESPN – he knows that won’t do anything to help the Quebec economy.
“We can’t depend (solely) on the will of American partners,” Michel said. “We can’t let our market completely die.”