How will COVID-19 affect the future of boxing? The sport’s key questions answered:


Jacob Tanswell and Has Karim crack boxing’s most glaring questions and predict how the Coronavirus pandemic will change the landscape of the sport.

Who will be the fighters most affected by the enforced break?

Jacob: Almost all will instantly think of the fighters at the top echelons of the game, but it will be those who ply their trade on the small hall shows that will suffer the most. Boxers at the bottom of the food chain may be forced to leave the sport because of the impact of the Coronavirus. Without knowing where their next fight fee will come from, they could be forced into full time work when the country’s lockdown eventually finishes.

Eddie Hearn echoed similar concerns, speaking last week: “The fighters at the top end are going to be fine but the fighters coming through, small hall fighters, ones starting their careers or those who do not have a sponsorship deal face big concerns.

“They will have to give up the sport of boxing and get a job and that’s heartbreaking for someone trying to live their dreams.”

Has: I feel it’s likely to be the champions – particularly Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. Both of them have only just claimed their titles and this is likely to be a halt to their momentum. They had both seemingly found something of a groove in their previous bouts, especially Fury.

Outside of them, I would imagine contenders also will take something of a hit. Dillian Whyte for example, had just his first comeback fight after his drugs issue. Having already been forced into a long break, he will now have to sit on the shelf again. Oleksandr Usyk is another case, he was set to continue gaining experience as a heavyweight, something which has taken a delay due to this pandemic.

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What is the overriding feeling for the postponement of all boxing?

Jacob: For all those connected or fans of the sport, surely the prevailing feeling is a mixture of sadness and disappointment. Sadness for what’s happening with this pandemic and more precisely in boxing, the individuals in the business who will lose everything, whether that’s financial or any future ambitions.

Disappointment is also being felt as 2020 had been shaping up to be a big year in the sport. Wilder-Fury had already taken place with the trilogy bout scheduled for July 18. It was also certainly on the cards for the winner to meet Joshua at the end of the year. Defining career clashes were beckoning for British fighters that were on the cusp of breaking into the elite, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders the blatant cases.

Has:  The biggest saddening factor in all of this is the delay of the big fights we knew we could expect. With no particular time frame for the end of this, it feels as if the fights that suddenly felt a lot nearer now suddenly feel considerably far away.

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Will champions, who had been scheduled to face their mandatories – Josh Taylor and Gennadiy Golovkin the standout cases – still have to fight them?

Jacob: It all depends on the governing bodies, where some are stricter than others. Take the IBF for example, who are extremely rigid on champions facing their mandatories. The WBC in comparison, well, the less said about that the better. Both Josh Taylor and Golovkin are IBF title holders so are likely to be issued an ultimatum – face their number one challenger or lose the belt. For Golovkin, that potential situation could prove problematic.

Has: In the case of GGG, it seemed locked in that he’d have his mandatory fight against Kamil Szeremeta. But murmurs around the press now point to a trilogy bout against Canelo. It wouldn’t be surprising if promoters want big shot returns when the game is up and running again.

With a return date yet in sight, will endless months of no boxing alter the dynamics of the sport?

Jacob: The truncated boxing schedule is inevitably going to force promoters, managers and fighters themselves to restrategise their 2020 plans. Something which may turn out to be a positive thing for fans. Eddie Hearn recently stated “if you are only going to fight once this year, you want it to be the biggest fight.”

In the UK,  the British Boxing Board of Control have suspended all events until May 30. And even that date looks extremely ambitious; it’s all but guaranteed that will get pushed back further. Anthony Joshua’s fight against Kubrat Pulev on June 20 has been postponed, so it’s looking likely that the end of June is the minimum date to expect boxing to return, with crowds anyway.

Therefore, most fighters face the possibility of only fighting once this year. This could in turn, tempt boxers to pursue the biggest names out there, where they actively look to make up for lost time. So although the situation looks desperate right now, when boxing does make a comeback, we will see a saturation of the biggest and best fights in a short amount of time, something that has always been a utopia for fight fans.

Has: I don’t feel there will be many changes in people stances in the sport. I feel it will essentially pick up where it left off – perhaps with increased demand from the fans. However, some like the aforementioned Whyte, will have had a longer time than anticipated out the ring. If anything will be affected, I feel it will be the performance levels of some fighters who may not be as sharp as usual.

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Thus, will Canelo still fight Billy Joe Saunders next as planned?

Jacob: The severe disruption in the boxing landscape could be exemplified through Canelo Alvarez. U.S streaming network DAZN were said to have pencilled in the Canelo-Golovkin trilogy bout for September 12, with both having another fight in the interim.

The Mexican was all but set to announce his shot at becoming a four-weight world champion against Billy Joe Saunders for May 2. ‘GGG’ had to take care of his mandatory, Kamil Szeremeta in a concurrent time period. But with the two fights on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, DAZN may push for two of their biggest stars on the network to do battle next.

Has: Following yet another issue with Billy Joe Saunders, it seems the Brit has blown his shot at Canelo for now. Since then, reports have come out of Canelo now looking at a trilogy bout with GGG – surely this is bad news for Saunders, who is facing punishment for his latest slip-up. So no, Saunders will have wait once again for a shot at arguably the biggest boxing star on the planet.


For further boxing views and news, follow Jacob and Has on Twitter:

Twitter | Slack App Directory @J_Tanswell

Twitter | Slack App Directory @TheHasKarim



About Author

Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

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