The hopes of crowds returning to boxing in the UK any time soon have been dealt a serious blow after the Government put back plans to allow fans attend from next month.
The Government had earmarked October 1 as the date to start allowing fans back after a series of pilot schemes with limited audiences. But with the Covid-19 infection rate on the rise again, plans for a phased return of fans have been paused.
Test events have taken place in several sports and Eddie Hearn had hoped to stage two shows in October – headlined by Joshua Buatsi v Marko Calic and Lewis Ritson v Miguel Vazquez – as test events with 1,000 fans in attendance.
But after the UK threat level over coronavirus was raised to 4, meaning transmission rates are high or rising exponentially, it was announced that the return of fans would be paused.
"We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning - it wasn't going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans," Michael Gove, the Cabinet Minister, said.
"We're looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.
"The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it's in the nature of major sporting events that there's a lot of mingling."
Hearn has said the two October shows will go ahead if no crowd is allowed, as will the November 21 rematch between Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte, which he had planned to stage at either the Royal Albert Hall or Wembley Arena.
He has also said that Anthony Joshua is prepared for his WBA, IBO, WBO and IBF heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev, which has been booked for December 12 at the O2 Arena, to take place without fans present.
The heavyweight clash between Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce is currently being aimed at November 28 at the O2 Arena, the week after the ATP Tennis Finals are due to finish there, but such a plan is likely to be dependent on a crowd being present.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.