Boxing will resume in the UK in February with no ban on fans attending providing the government allows it.
Robert Smith, the general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, says a meeting of the Board’s medical committee will take place this evening (Wednesday) to formally agree that boxing will get the go-ahead to recommence on February 1.
The BBBoC came under criticism for suspending the sport for January in the wake of a huge surge in coronavirus cases nationwide. It meant that the Chris Eubank-Liam Williams middleweight fight, already rescheduled once, would have to be moved back again.
But Smith said the decision to take a break – which was the same decision as made in January 2021 – was more than simply about ensuring adequate medical cover for fights, with officials and indeed boxers having to self-isolate.
“The last thing we want is to have to tell a promoter his show is cancelled on the morning of a fight because we haven’t got enough officials or doctors,” Smith said. “We cannot afford to be doing that.
“We had a large number of cases in December. We had fighters pulling out of fights at late notice, we had officials going down with it. January is always a quiet month. It is in reality a suspension for two weeks, rather than a month, because no shows were planned for the first two weeks of January anyway.”
Indeed, Smith and his No 2, Dennis Gilmartin, both went down with Covid in the week after attending the Joseph Parker-Derek Chisora fight on December 18 in Manchester. Several other staff at the BBBoC’s offices in Cardiff, leading to the offices being closed down three days early before Christmas.
There had been applications to run five shows in January, one of which, Smith said, had already been called off before the Board’s decision. As well as Eubank-Williams, which was already under threat because of the Welsh Government’s current rules that prevent crowds from attending sporting events, there were two traditional Burns Night dinner shows in Scotland.
The biggest show announced so far for February is Amir Kan v Kell Brook in Manchester on February 19. A week later, Josh Taylor is due to defend his undisputed world super-lightweight title against Jack Catterall in Glasgow.
While not announced yet, Matchroom are expected to have two shows on in February, one on February 12 with Daniel Jacobs facing John Ryder in a super0middleweight fight. There has also been talk of Daniel Dubois headlineing a Queensberry Promotions show in February.
MTK Global are holding their first show of 2012 on February 11 at York Hall, London, with Danny Dignum and Gary Cully in joint headliners.
While there are no current restrictions on crowds in England, in Scotland there is a limit to 500.
“We are only doing the same thing as we did last year, when there were no shows in January,” Smith said. “This time we are in a much better position to restart.
“The situation on crowds is down to the venue and the Government. It doesn’t help that we are dealing with four different governments for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“We want boxing to be happening, but we need to be in the best possible decision to make sure it does.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. 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.