By Alfonso Morales / www.la-lista.com
Boxing weathered the lockdown but avoided the knockout during 2020 and looked for a way to stay active with some big cards, like the one starring “Canelo” in December.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit all industries really hard. Sports and entertainment were among the most affected. Events without public means athletes without income. Boxing also suffered from that situation. However, the sport of boxing avoided the knockout during 2020 and looked for a way to stay active with some big cards.
However, Mauricio Sulaiman, President of the World Boxing Council, admits that there is concern, since: “It is dangerous that a whole generation of boxers is lost due to the pandemic,” after not seeing paid activity in many months.
In an interview with La-Lista, he explains how boxing, one of the most popular sports in Mexico and the world, has reinvented itself during this pandemic.
What´s the status of boxing during the pandemic?
Boxing is going through a moment, I would say. It has been a very difficult year for all activities. All types of economy, sports and entertainment industry, although boxing has been very active. It was activated since May, and there were sporadic cards. In December there were already big cards with audiences especially in Texas, at the Dallas Cowboys stadium and at the Alamo Dome. The concern is regarding rookies and for beginners, because they depend on modest boxing cards, where tickets are sold and since public events are prohibited in most of the world, many boxers are unemployed and many gyms are closed.
What is the strategy to keep boxing active? Have they approached promoters, television stations and businessmen?
The strategy was launched during the early stage of the pandemic, with activations through social networks, technology, stay home, but exercise, box. It has been a combination of participation of legends and current boxers so that one can stay active. We made protocols for the reopening of gyms. This worked very well.
We are with a program rescuing boxing looking for godparents of boxers, so that there could be some cards. We work with promoters, television stations, gyms looking for opportunities, so that there is activity. Everyone lowering their pretensions, understanding the situation trying to keep the boxer from leaving the sport. The boxer who has not been active for months, a year, has to find other means to survive and it is dangerous that a whole generation of boxers is lost, due to this situation.
Who are those godparents that the WBC has sought so that this generation of boxers does not get lost?
Carlos Bremer from Valué was spoken to at the time and he views this situation with sympathy. We have not made progress, but there is a possibility there. Also (we have spoken) with people who like boxing, who go to cards and who can usually sponsor a boxing career so young people do not give up boxing.
What indicators does the WBC have that alerts you to a possible loss of boxers to the pandemic?
Definitely the number of fights is much lower than in other years. There are many who are going to go through the year without a fight and it is an adverse effect. What we have done has been to support every initiative so that there is boxing. We created a medical protocol that we share with the promoters to carry out cards without public to avoid contagion, but that there is activity in the ring. We have used technology to maintain training through the WBC virtual university.
In all areas there are radical changes, derived from Covid-19, what are those for the boxing industry?
I feel like it’s an adjustment, more than a change. If you cannot have an audience, there will be performances with the support of television, sponsors. If there is a little public, there will begin to be sales. Time will heal the wounds of the pandemic and the time will come when everything becomes regular again. As for boxing, many new ways to promote itself are being given with YouTube social networks, influencers, mass media and they offer a solution.
Television stations, streaming platforms … what role have they played to keep boxing active?
We have worked hand in hand with TV Azteca. The protocol was elaborated since May and they have presented cards. With Televisa there is already programming with boxing. In ESPN Knockout they have brought on boxing, Space has programming for Central and South America and the major television stations in the United States such as ESPN, Showtime, Fox, DAZN. WBC universities have developed, we have daily programming, and we have to take advantage of the technology. We have to activate, innovate, break paradigms.
Is there some kind of approach with pharmaceutical companies or governments so that the boxing industry has access to the vaccine against Covid-19?
We have not had any kind of approach with governments about the vaccine yet. We definitely keep the community in touch and update them. The vaccine is the salvation of humanity and we must wait for it to arrive.
Sport is important as being healthy helps to fight Covid. If you have physical activation, the resistance to this virus is much higher, if you have a healthy mind, too. If it is possible to have a sports activity that gives the person entertainment and distraction and is something that the sport of boxing has contributed.
Is it a message of hope that ‘Canelo’ Álvarez fought at the end of 2020?
It is a cause for celebration that Canelo steps into the ring. It is a reason to think that it is the beginning of something new.
Mauricio Sulaimán’s Wishlist for 2021