By: Hans Themistode
Reality has slowly set in.
This isn’t a movie. Nor is it a new television series on the Sci Fi channel. No, the Coronavirus pandemic has turned the lives of everyone around the world into something that they can hardly recognize.
Bars have been shut down, clubs have boarded up their doors, clothing stores have turned their customers away and boxing gyms have seen their steely doors closed shut.
Although every sport and the lives of everyone has been affected in a major way, boxing and fitness companies have seemingly taken the biggest hit.
From the moment the Coronavirus made its unwanted presence known, the sport of boxing was sent reeling. Boxing events that were scheduled to take place months in advance were forced to cancel and fighters were forced to switch from their daily fitness routines to one that now resembles the life of a potato couch. Even names that seem invincible inside of the ring such as Canelo Alvarez, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury were forced to take a standing eight count.
Fighters who spent their entire lives ducking punches, are now being taught a new way to fight, as social distancing has been deemed the best way to end the spread of the virus.
Although it has been proven to be our best line of defense, the unexpected closure of boxing gyms comes with a heavy price. Unlike clothing stores and other businesses that serve one particular need, boxing gyms provided individuals with more than just a place to throw punches.
“That gym is an outlet for so many people,” said former amateur boxing standout and current owner of SouthBox gym Eric Kelly. “They work on their craft and achieve their goals. Some people want to be champions while others want to just shed a few pounds. Everybody has different training purposes. For others that gym is therapy. It’s a way out from whatever struggles they might be going through. Whether it struggles at home, at work or with spouses. The gym is just a way out for them.”
Eric Kelly has long had a love affair with the boxing gym. It’s where he not only made his name, but it’s also how he supports himself and his five kids. Over the years, Kelly evolved from a promising New York City fighter, to a street fighter, to now, one of the most recognizable names in the sport of boxing.
That isn’t hyperbole either. No matter if it’s a boxing arena with some of the biggest stars in the world present or simply a small gym with just your average joe’s trying to get a work out in, Kelly becomes the center of attention from the moment that he walks in. So to say that Kelly is feeling the effects of this abrupt work stoppage, would be putting it mildly.
“I’m a parent. I have five children. I’ve got a lot of bills and a lot of responsibilities. That gym is where I make my money. But also traveling to various gyms throughout the city to make my money. But all the gyms are closed, so what do I do?”
Unlike other companies that have no alternatives, Kelly has a few other options in terms of work. But they are hardly ideal.
“I’ve tried a few workouts through FaceTime and Skype but the transition isn’t smooth at all. It’s just not a convenient way of doing things.”
The inconvenience that Kelly describes is replaced with anxiety and fear when speaking to former world champion Heather Hardy.
The life of an athlete is different. Almost gloried to a certain degree. This current work stoppage affects the working class and those that live paycheck to paycheck. Not those who make constant television appearances such as Heather Hardy.
It’s true. Hardy has become a star over the years. Attracting major fights and gracing TV sets with her fan friendly style. But unlike her male counterparts who can afford a work stoppage for an extended amount of time, Hardy cannot.
“I am panicked,” said Hardy. “I’ll be honest, I am panicked, but I’m still functional. When Bruce told me this morning that Gleason’s is closing, I fell on the floor and cried because I don’t know how I’m going to take care of my family.”
“A lot of times, my fights will help me pay some late bills, allow me to treat my daughter to things we normally wouldn’t be able to afford. But my day-to-day job is what keeps the lights on,” she continued. “I train for fights and still teach my clients because I rely on them so heavily. It’s going to be a hard transition not fighting and not having that good paycheck.”
The tears that ran down the face of Hardy during her interview, highlighted the pain and struggle of a female fighter. For years, Hardy has pointed the finger in the direction of women’s pay in the boxing world. But oftentimes, she’s been overlooked.
Still, regardless of her circumstances, Hardy is trying to take the little that she does have and give back to those who need it most.
“We have to be really kind to each other and understand that for as little as we feel we have, there are people who have less than us. How can we help people with less than us? We start from the top, so that we can all make it to the other side … and rebuild together.”
The rebuild for Hardy and the entire boxing community won’t come easy. It also won’t come from taking a lackadaisical approach. No, creativity is the key to get out of this current mess.
“This whole situation forces you to think. You have to think outside of the box. You have to get creative. If you want to be special then you have to mastermind a plan that’s going to serve you good during this downtime. You have to use this time right now to figure things out. Your back is against the wall so what you gonna do? You can’t go to work, you can’t go chill at your boys house. You can’t even just go out for a walk so what you gonna do? Use this time to think. If you are an elite mind, then you can use this time to your advantage and that’s what I’m going to do. I can’t sit here and cry. You’re still alive so you have to figure things out.”
Too many times has sports been used in comparison to life.
A basketball court is just that, a basketball court. The football field is simply a green piece of grass. The correlation between those sports and life are infinitesimal. But boxing on the other hand, provides more life lessons than them all.
For professional fighters, they are taught how to fight during the most adverse situations. They’ve also been given the ability to adapt no matter what.
Those life lessons that Kelly learned in the ring, is exactly what he is leaning on today to get him through this situation.
“The fight is 12 rounds. You might lose the first round, you might lose the second round. You might get knocked down in the ninth round or you might get knocked down in the tenth round, but guess what? It ain’t over til it’s over. You got 12 rounds. I done seen dudes get knocked out in the 12th round. So you never give up. I’m not going to break down, I’m going to break through.”
By: Sean Crose
Manny Pacquiao has reportedly tested negative for the Corona virus, otherwise known as COVID-19. The iconic boxer and Filipino senator had reportedly come into contact with an individual who had tested positive for the virus. Pacquiao claimed he had “already started home quarantine” in a public announcement. “Please don’t worry,” he stated, “I received rapid testing kits from my friends from South Korea. Using these kits approved in Korea, I tested negative. The FDA hasn’t approved them yet but these are what’s used in Korea.” Like much of the world, Pacquiao’s native Philippines has been hit by COVID-19. Pacquiao and his family reportedly went under quarantine.
The WBA world welterweight champion – and almost guaranteed future Hall of Fame fighter – has said he will be willing to be tested again, by swab, if evidence arises that the virus may be impacting him. Pacquiao has also claimed he is willing to face death himself in order to help the Filipino people during the international pandemic. “It’s an entirely different conversation when I’m feeling something strange in my body,” he said. “I am willing to undergo swab testing for the sake of my family and my country, but I will go through the regular procedure.” Pacquiao has argued that “there are many more persons under investigation or PUI that should be prioritized in testing.”
Pacquiao, perhaps the most famous Filipino on earth, last stepped foot in a professional boxing ring last summer when he surprised many by knocking down defending WBA world welterweight champion Keith Thurman en route to a decision victory. Although Pacquiao was supposed to fight again this summer – Mikey Garcia’s name has been mentioned – the worldwide terror that is COVID-19 has put any plans that may have been in the works on hold indefinitely. At the moment, Pacquiao, who has held titles in a whopping eight weight divisions, is focusing on his duties as a senator.
“If you are a leader,” the Manila Bulletin quotes Pacquiao as saying, “you have to be a frontliner.” Pacquiao has also addressed the fact that his own upbringing in extreme poverty has made him empathetic to those in need. “You have to lead,” he said, “and let people see that you are with them…I grew up poor. I know what they feel.” As of last weekend, there were close to a thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines. Over 50 Filipinos struck by the virus had perished from it.
By: Hans Themistode
For the better part of four years, WBO Super Middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders spent the vast majority of his time calling out Canelo Alvarez. After years of employing the same tactics, Saunders finally got his wish. A date with Alvarez on May 2nd with Saunders WBO title on the line.
Now, ironically enough, Saunders used his words to land the biggest fight of his career. But now, his words are about to cost him.
With the entire world seemingly on quarantine thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, Saunders thought it would be funny to share a video of what men should do to their female spouses should they get on their nerves too much during isolation.
Saunders quickly found out that he was the only one in the room laughing.
Domestic violence has always been a hot button topic. Too many athletes have found themselves in trouble for simply failing to keep their hands to themselves. Saunders may not have actually put his hands on a female, but everyone, including his promoter Eddie Hearn is shaking their head at him.
“I was appalled really,” said Hearn. “It was so idiotic, it was so frustrating because I know Billy well. He’s a really good kid, with a really good heart … but every now and again he does the most stupid things.”
“It’s unacceptable for Joe Bloggs down the street to do it. It’s much more unacceptable for a world champion boxer to be doing it. People who are in abusive relationships are watching that video. You cannot do it, it’s unacceptable.”
Unfortunately, domestic violence is a common occurrence. Yet, you might be willing to bet that one woman has never had to deal with it. That would be arguably the best female boxer in the world, Claressa Shields. With two gold medals, world titles in three different weight classes and an undefeated record, you would have to be crazy to even think about putting your hands on Shields.
While she isn’t worried about herself. She did offer a bit of advice to all the ladies in abusive relationships.
Necessary? Also yes.
Another fighter who decided to jump all over Billy Joe Saunders is former WBO Featherweight champion Heather Hardy.
“This is not funny,” Hardy wrote in a Tweet that she has since deleted. “I can’t imagine the number of people quarantined in abusive and dangerous spaces right now, and this dumb piece of sh*t makes a joke about ‘how to hit your annoying wife.”
The words of Hardy, Shields and Hearn were sharp, but Saunders really felt it when his boxing license was suspended.
“Having considered comments made by Billy Joe Saunders on social media,” the BBBofC said in a statement, “we have suspended his boxer’s license pending a hearing under the board’s misconduct regulation, at a time and venue to be confirmed as soon as possible.”
Saunders has always been known as having thick skin and unapologetic. But this time around, he’s noticed that he made a huge mistake.
For what it’s worth, the boxing community has seemingly appreciated the apology. Even Hardy came around and apparently wants to sweep things under the rug.
While Hardy may not think that Saunders is “dick head” the rest of the world may still feel that way. He has always been perceived in an unfavorable light and this situation certainly doesn’t help.
If Saunders hopes to get into the good graces of everyone he’ll need to take even more action. That would include becoming a social advocate against domestic violence.
As for his contest with Canelo, unless he can somehow get his license back, he may have lost the biggest fight of his career before it even started.
By: Hans Themistode
Fighting is second nature for boxers.
After all, ducking and dodging punches while letting off a few shots of their own is what all fighters have been taught.
Yet, during their fight against this global pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, many of them have found themselves on the losing end.
With nearly one million total cases and over 33,000 deaths, the world is left scratching it’s collective heads trying to successfully battle the deadly disease.
The sports world, and boxing in particular, is having a difficult time dealing with the after effects of the virus.
For the past few weeks, sports events have come to a screeching halt. NBA games have been shelved, Tennis tournaments have been pushed back and the 2020 Olympic Games have been canceled entirely.
With no reprieve in sight, boxing more than any other sport has suffered unlike no other.
Although the virus has shown to be ruthless to everyone that it has crossed paths with, it seems to be even more ruthless to the boxing community.
Former Heavyweight title challenger Derrick Jefferson, 52 has recently been placed in a medically induced coma. Fringe Heavyweight contender Travis Kauffman is also currently undergoing treatment for the Coronavirus as well.
While there are a number of boxing figures receiving treatment, there is an even larger number of them that have succumbed to the disease entirely.
85 year old Boxing journalist Ron Ross, 80 year old hall of fame cut man and trainer Nelson Cuevas, 47 year old Laneeka Barksdale who is the long time girlfriend of hall of fame fighter Tommy Hearns and the father of Light Heavyweight contender Anthony Yarde have all recently passed away due to the Coronavirus.
The names of every single one of those men and women all have one thing common. They were and still are fighters.
Dealing with death and sickness is never easy. But the speed in which all of these tragedies are occurring, makes it an even harder pill to swallow.
The recent diagnosis of billionaire and New York Knicks owner James Dolan, also proves that this disease has no preference for who it attacks.
While the loss of life is devastating enough, the boxing community has felt the impact beyond the number of casualties.
From a financial standpoint, the entire boxing world has been hit particularly hard. Fighters have been barred from entering gyms and trainers who make their living not only training professional fighters but also other clients, have no way to make the money that helps them secure the living that they need.
Simply put, the once seemingly perpetual well of money that was generated from boxing is completely empty.
For as bleak as the immediate future of boxing seems at the moment, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Things cannot and will not be like this forever. Normalcy will return to the sport of boxing and to the entire world. With that being said however, no one has any indication as to when that day will actually come.
By: Sean Crose
It’s doubtful anyone can remember anything like it…at least in North America. Fears of, and precautions for, the Corona virus outbreak have now seeped into every aspect of society. Boxing has been no exception. Although the virus has yet to make a strong impact on the sport, its effects are being felt throughout the fight business. As of press time, this Saturday’s Top Rank card is still a go at Madison Square Garden. How full the arena will be, or if fans will even be able to attend live, remains a question. With the NBA having suspended its entire season, anything seems possible.
“As we speak,” Bad Left Hook quotes Top Rank honcho Bob Arum as saying, “there are no plans to cancel.” The long time promoter is clear that he’ll take his cues from the State of New York.
Saturday’s Premiere Boxing Champions’ card outside of Washington is still, as of press time, a go, both for the fighters involved, as well as for those who wish to attend the James Kirkland headlined event. Both the Top Rank and PBC cards are to be televised. The Top Rank card will be aired live on ESPN, while the PBC card will be broadcast live on Fox Sport’s 1.
Being a sport where events are held before large groups of people, boxing may well be in line for a series of cancellations, or postponements. Aside from the NBA, other major events have been cancelled or otherwise impacted by the Corona virus. The SXSW festival won’t be happening in 2020. The NCAA basketball tournament will be played in empty arenas.
Musicians from Madonna to Pear Jam to Mariah Carey have either postponed or canceled events entirely. At the moment, no fight cards of note have been altered.
Like much of society, boxing’s powers that be appear to be in a state of wait and see. With the threat of a mass outbreak looming, precautions obviously have to be taken. With so much money at stake with upcoming fight cards, however, no one wants to be quick to pull the plug on already scheduled events unless it’s absolutely necessary to. This is especially true of cards featuring high profile boxers such as Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk, Dillan Whyte, Sergey Kovalev and Canelo Alvarez (who many expect to face Billy Joe Saunders in early May).
Boxing Insider will keep readers updated as events unfold.