Masks, no spitting and no fans: Boxing’s proposed new fight-night rules for July return

Under proposed rules, trainers and those in the corner will need to wear a protective mask at fight nights

Boxers on British fight shows will wear protective masks during ring walks and will be banned from using a spit bucket between rounds under proposed rules for events.

The sport is gearing up for a behind-closed-doors return in the UK in July after being shutdown in most countries across the world as a result of the coronavrius pandemic.

Referees and trainers in the fighters’ corners must wear protective masks throughout the event and the proposals include thorough testing of all those involved.

In a five-page consultation document sent to UK promoters and seen by BBC Sport – the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) says a July restart will initially see events contain no more than five bouts and no “championship contests”.

The document sets out proposed rules which include:

  • Fight shows to begin without any fans
  • Boxers, referees and trainers will be transported to the venue wearing personal protective masks
  • A fighter may remove their protective mask when inside the ring – but referees and teams in the corner must keep theirs on
  • Boxers may not spit in their respective corners
  • No ring announcers, ring girls or TV cameras inside the ring
  • All proposed venues must be reviewed by the BBBofC and “cleaned to a medical standard” before the event
  • Only “essential” officials, promoters and broadcasters can attend
  • Individuals in high-risk categories such as pregnant women, those “seriously overweight” or people with diabetes should not attend
  • Everyone at an event must be tested for Covid-19
  • All boxers, trainers and referees must be tested for Covid-19 48 hours before fight night and self-isolate at a hotel until their test result is known

Promoter Eddie Hearn said the proposals provided “huge barriers to overcome”, while another industry insider described the document as “farcical”.

The BBBofC said the measures are within government guidance and in stressing the rules outlined were “not final” said the views of promoters will be considered.

Who is due to fight in July?

The next fights scheduled in Britain in July are:

4 July: Manchester Arena – Dillian Whyte v Alexander Povetkin (WBC interim heavyweight title), Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano (WBC, IBF, WBO and WBA lightweight titles); Callum Johnson v Igor Mikhalkin (vacant European light-heavyweight title)

11 July: O2 Arena, London, England – Daniel Dubois v Joe Joyce (British & Commonwealth heavyweight titles); Anthony Yarde v Lyndon Arthur (light-heavyweight)

There are also several postponed fights that need new dates, including Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev – originally at the Tottenham Hostspur Stadium.

What else did the BBCofC say?

The governing body has made clear it will not place added pressure on the National Health Service by resuming boxing too early. Fight nights require the attendance of ambulances and medical personnel, as well as access to nearby neurosurgical care in the event of a serious injury.

The BBBofC will take responsibility for ensuring hospital access is possible and says individuals will have their temperature taken outside of venues on the night. In addition, any individual fighting or attending the event who does not fill in a new mandatory medical questionnaire will not be permitted to enter.

But under the rules outlined promoters must take responsibility for a hotel suitable for self isolation as well as Covid-19 testing for fighters.

Those moves are likely to lead to added costs at a time where ticket sales will be non-existent and the generation of pay-per-view revenue unrealistic in the short term.

Should the UK government amend its guidance on how the spread of coronavirus can be best managed, the BBBofC could adapt some of its proposed measures.

But should shows be staged with the new rules in place, fans can expect to see officials and television commentary teams sat two metres apart at ringside, with all parties dressed in short-sleeve shirts in a bid to improve hygiene.

Under the guidelines people 70 years old or older, those with chronic lung disease or moderate asthma, individuals with serious heart conditions and anyone who has had a fever, cough, cold or flu like symptoms in the previous 14-day period cannot attend events.

In reacting to the BBBofC’s document trainer Joe Gallagher, who guides the career of world super-middleweight champion Callum Smith among others, tweeted: “Why the rush and do things in half measures? Make sure everyone is safe and well and let’s look at getting going in September. Give everyone time to get back training, sparring and make sure everyone is safe.”

Boxers are currently unable attend their usual gyms due to social distancing guidelines, let alone conduct the sparring they rely on in preparing for a fight.

Some fighters and trainers are also living with individuals deemed high-risk if they contract coronavirus, meaning a return to any gym environment represents an added challenge if they are to avoid potentially contracting the virus and passing it to loved ones.

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