NEW YORK – In a move that was expected based on actions taken throughout the sports world, Top Rank’s Carl Moretti announced during a press conference Thursday that the promotional company’s boxing cards scheduled for Saturday night and Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater will take place without fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Only essential production and support staff, in addition to fighters, necessary team members and credentialed media will be permitted to attend the two cards. BoxingScene.com has learned, however, that canceling both cards remains possible, depending on government mandates issued by the state of New York.
Bob Arum, Top Rank’s founder, told BoxingScene.com on Wednesday night that he expected fans to be permitted to attend both cards. That changed once the Big East conference restricted fans from attending the rest of its men’s basketball tournament, which will be played at Madison Square Garden’s main arena through Saturday night.
Top Rank’s show Saturday night will feature undefeated WBO featherweight champ Shakur Stevenson in a 12-round main event ESPN will televise (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT). The 22-year-old Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey, is set to make the first defense of his WBO belt against Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs).
On Tuesday night, Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) will meet Colombia’s Belmar Preciado (20-2-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight main event. Conlan-Preciado will headline an ESPN+ stream on St. Patrick’s Day (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
Fans who’ve purchased tickets for both events can get full refunds at the point of purchase.
In other news, the return of Toka Kahn Clary has been postponed. He was scheduled to return later tonight against Mexico’s Dennis Contreras.
Clar's fight was part of a card taking place at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
At Thursday’s weigh-in, Clary weighed in at 128 pounds. Contreras weighed 129 pounds.
Out of concern for all, and following the instructions from Governor Gina Raimondo and public health officials in the wake of the recent coronavirus outbreak, Twin River Casino Hotel postponed the event.
“While we acknowledge that the fighters scheduled to compete tonight worked hard for weeks, even months, to prepare for this event, the health and safety of all parties involved is more important,” CES Boxing president Jimmy Burchfield Sr. “This is a unique, unprecedented, situation affecting not only Rhode Island, but the entire world, and we are committed to ensuring the safety of others above all else.”
Clary (27-2, 18 knockouts), who is originally from West Africa country of Liberia and now resides in Providence, Rhode Island, defeated Irvin Gonzalez by unanimous decision in his last bout on August 29. The 27-year-old has won his last two bouts since losing by unanimous decision to then-unbeaten Kid Galahad in October 2018.