As sports begin to plan how to restart its calendar, the use of ‘fan-free’ events will certainly impact specific sectors, particularly boxing.
Whilst some promoters will be able to survive through TV deals and sponsorships, a lot of athletes and promotional companies currently rely on gate receipts as a vital source of income.
Dmitry Salita, ex-pro boxer and now president of Salita Promotions, spoke to Insider Sport to express his worries regarding boxing’s ecosystem. Highlighting that if the sport halts for a long period of time, it can affect all levels of boxing in its development of athletes for the foreseeable future.
He stated: “All the superstars and the TV fighters will find a way to stay busy, stay active and make money. But, the guys that are being built up, the ones that are four, six, eight round fighters that still haven’t reached that level, they need to stay busy, they need to fight six times a year. They may not be ‘TV worthy’ or they might need step-up fights and TV might not be able to pay for that.
“So, that becomes really challenging because those guys function and stay active, develop and become superstars because of the fact that they can fight on club level shows and develop in that way. That’s really going to be challenging because that is the lifeline of the sport. It’s being able to give that developmental platform to young fighters that need to develop and build a relationship with the boxing fans.”
With gate receipts no longer a source of income for promoters and their athletes, Salita has turned his attention to other forms of revenues which could help his business during this unprecedented and unpredictable time.
Salita added: “We are working on finding TV deals and TV possibilities to be able to give our fighters an opportunity to stay busy despite what is happening. Claressa Shields is one of our top fighters, she was supposed to fight Marie-Eve Dicaire on 9 May, that obviously got postponed so we are working on rescheduling that. We are also working on more fights for Otto Wallin and some of our other fighters.
“I believe that there could be a need and real possibility for TV platforms to get involved and showcase the Floyd Mayweathers, Mike Tysons or Joe Calzaghes of tomorrow. This is where they develop. This is where they come to life. So, hopefully there will be a TV platform that comes on board and supports those levels of fights.”
Whilst official plans have not been put in place regarding how the United States plans to regulate its boxing events, the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) has issued strict regulations as to how its sporting events will be staged. Boxing promoters such as Eddie Hearn (Matchroom Boxing) and Frank Warren (Queensberry Promotions) should realistically be able to produce shows, despite the restrictions put in place such as having no-fans and having no-more than five fights on a card and no ‘championship contests’.
However for lower level promoters, these restrictions could result in businesses and its athletes going through financial struggles, with Salita pointing out that amateur boxing could be severely impacted as a result.
“Folks like Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren, they are the two top promoters in Britain and they have enormous amounts of resources to be able to stage these events and they have the manpower to manage all that is necessary,” emphasised Saltia Promotions’ president.
“Some other promoters might not even have the capabilities to even carry out all of these regulations and those folks in many ways are the blood-line of the sport in terms of giving young fighters the platforms to stay busy. Guys like Eddie and Frank rely on those ‘B-level’ promoters to stay active and have events so that their young prospects can also stay busy.
“You have also got to think about amateur boxing. Amateur boxing is the school and university of professional fighters so depending on how far and how long this thing lasts. Amateur boxing is a big part of the sport, good pro’s only get results because of a great amateur boxing programme. So, that’s another sector of the sport that needs to be looked at, developed and maintained.”
Global border restrictions and differing boxing regulations depending on where a show takes place are prevalent issues Salita is faced with when scheduling upcoming fights in the future. Without certain clarity that fights will be able to take place, especially in some US states which have yet to announce any boxing restart plans. The promoter is expecting things to get back up and running in July/August, with the possibility of scheduling and running shows around those dates. However, as coronavirus still remains to be prevalent in society, everything can change in a heartbeat.
Salita concluded: “Things change day to day so we are hopeful and we feel like maybe in July/August things will open up, fan-free, but that has yet to be decided. So, it’s challenging to think about and plan events in a concrete manner because things are changing everyday, laws are changing and there hasn’t really been a progression plan in terms of opening up certain states and being able to officially and legally plan events.”