By: Hans Themistode
Top Rank CEO Bob Arum is done waiting. COVID-19 forced his promotional company to take a standing eight, but before the referee could fully count them out, it seems as though they aren’t done just yet.
During this worldwide pandemic, Arum was given no choice but to axe several of his shows, including the first title defense of WBO Featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson against perpetual contender Miguel Marriaga. Now, nearly three months later, Arum is putting the pieces in place to bring live boxing back to television screens. But not without a few major changes.
“We have contacted most of our fighters,” Arum told co-hosts Gerry Cooney and Randy Gordon. “We plan to launch the first week in June in a safe, secure way. We’re gonna initially launch in Nevada. We’ve made arrangements or are making arrangements with a hotel. We can get everybody tested, put them in a bubble and get these fights on. And unfortunately, because a lot of it requires so much extra work and care and testing that we’re gonna limit our fight shows to four fights a card. But that’s the bad side.”
“The good side is we hope, we’re arranging with ESPN to do two or three events every week. So, because you know, you take a big sports network like ESPN, ESPN+, they don’t have live sports now. Putting boxing on, particularly top-level boxing, will attract big audiences.”
While there is a certain appreciation for classic boxing fights, sports fans have grown tired of watching matchups that while they are classics, the outcome is already known.
With only a few weeks remaining until the calendar turns and June arrives, Arum did not mention which fighters from his stable he had in mind for its return.
COVID-19 does not appear to be slowing down in its death march, but Arum has a blueprint he could follow in order to churn out the number of shows he is aiming for.
This past weekend, UFC President Dana White was successful in his own attempt to bring his sport back into the homes of those who are starved for it. UFC 249, which took place in Jacksonville, Florida, came and went without a hitch. The event took place without fans in the arena and with major precaution such as trainers wearing a mask throughout the duration of the contest, announcers which typically are done in groups of three were seated away from one another, and fighters were tested both before and after the event.
By all accounts their safety measures worked. One fighter, Jacare Souza, did come down with the virus but he was immediately pulled from the card. The UFC intends to host more shows since their first was a success.
Even during a day and age where the world is starved for money due to work shortages, the UFC event managed to pull in over 700,000 pay per view buys. A number that may have caught the eye of Arum.