Michael Hunter won’t quite feel at ease until the veteran heavyweight walks to the ring Tuesday night to battle Mike Wilson.
That’s the type of impact COVID-19 has made mentally on vaccinated boxers like Hunter, whose fight with Wilson was abruptly postponed June 15, just four days before they were supposed to square off on the Teofimo Lopez-George Kambosos Jr. undercard at loanDepot Park in Miami. Lopez, who was not vaccinated, tested positive for the coronavirus the morning of June 15.
“We were all kind of shocked and devastated, but it’s something that comes with the territory,” Hunter told BoxingScene.com. “We wanted the fights to happen. We were there already, settling down. I did get to see my opponent. So, it just kind of all sucked to just fly in, be right there and then have to pull out like that.”
Las Vegas’ Hunter (19-1-1, 13 KOs) was fortunate in that his bout with Wilson (21-1, 10 KOs) was rescheduled soon thereafter as the main event of Triller Fight Club’s show Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. Their 10-rounder will headline a card that’ll be offered for free on fite.tv, starting at 7 p.m. EDT.
Nevertheless, postponements and withdrawals due to COVID-19 have become prevalent again in recent weeks.
Last week resembled last summer because British welterweight Conor Benn and Canadian welterweight Cody Crowley pulled out of respective main events against Adrian Granados (this past Saturday on DAZN) and Gabriel Maestre (this Saturday on FOX). Two more fights FS1 was supposed to air this past Saturday were scrapped because welterweight Justin DeLoach and junior lightweight Maliek Montgomery tested positive for COVID-19.
Many boxers have chosen not to get vaccinated, especially when they’re training for fights, in part because they’re fearful that the side effects could hamper their preparation.
“It’s a very sensitive topic because you have a split, where some people agree with the vaccination and some people don’t,” Hunter said. “It’s just a lot of mess out there. So, I think everybody should take precautions, as far as, you know, cleanliness, being sanitary and just doing their due diligence with their own health. I was just explaining to somebody that just because you lift a lot of weights and your physique looks good, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in good health. But then I know seven people that got vaccinated and then got COVID after that, so it’s a very touchy subject.”
State commissions haven’t required boxers to get vaccinated in order to compete, nor have promoters.
That freedom adds financial risk, however, for television networks, streaming services and promoters that spend substantial sums of money prior to events, only to have unvaccinated boxers contract COVID-19 and force postponements. The costliest example, of course, is the third WBC heavyweight championship bout between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, which was postponed from July 24 until October 9 because Fury failed COVID tests less than three weeks before they were supposed to meet in an ESPN/FOX Sports pay-per-view main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“It’s kind of scary every day, not knowing what’s gonna happen, who’s gonna catch it,” Hunter said. “We’re just taking much more precautions – where I’m able to be, what type of gym we’re working out at, if we have to sanitize the place, who’s in the gym in these types of situations.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.