Televised boxing cards Saturday night in New York City and Oxon Hill, Maryland, still will be contested before fans.
Coronavirus concerns made major impacts Wednesday on fan attendance at college basketball and Major League Baseball games. The NBA went as far Wednesday night as to temporarily suspend its regular season, effective at the end of the New Orleans-Sacramento game played Wednesday night.
The Utah-Oklahoma City game scheduled for Wednesday night was postponed when a member of the Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus.
As of Wednesday night, however, boxing enthusiasts still are permitted to attend televised cards Saturday night in New York City and Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Reacting to the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, the NCAA announced Wednesday that due to the contagious nature of the coronavirus it will prohibit fans from attending any of its men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments, which start next week at sites throughout the country. MLB announced Wednesday that the Seattle Mariners won’t play home games until further notice once the MLB regular season starts later this month.
A state of emergency was declared Saturday in the state of New York due to the fast-spreading COVID-19, a deadlier strain of the coronavirus.
Promoter Bob Arum informed BoxingScene.com on Wednesday night, though, that neither New York State Athletic Commission officials nor Madison Square Garden executives have indicated that fans won’t be able to attend either of the two cards his company, Top Rank Inc., has scheduled for Saturday night and Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.
“As far as Saturday’s card and Tuesday’s card, I think we’re OK because there are big college basketball tournaments being played at Madison Square Garden and Barclays this week and this weekend,” Arum said, referring the Big East men’s basketball tournament at The Garden and the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. “What we understand from the governor’s office is that there’s no intent to have them perform without an audience. But we obviously will follow whatever the mandates are from the government.”
The Atlantic 10 announced late Wednesday night, after Arum’s interview with BoxingScene.com, that the remainder of its men’s basketball tournament would be played without fans in attendance at Barclays Center.
If the Big East Tournament, which began Wednesday with fans in attendance, is played without fans at The Garden, Arum’s boxing cards also would likely be held in an empty venue Saturday night and Tuesday night.
Arum’s show Saturday will feature undefeated WBO featherweight champ Shakur Stevenson in a 12-round main event ESPN will televise (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT). Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey, is set to make the first defense of his WBO belt against Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs).
On Tuesday night, Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) will meet Colombia’s Belmar Preciado (20-2-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight fight. Conlan-Preciado will headline an ESPN+ stream on St. Patrick’s Day (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
Arum already has had one his cards postponed three months and moved from China to California because of the coronavirus.
Jose Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs) was supposed to make a mandatory defense of his WBC super lightweight title versus Ukraine’s Viktor Postol (31-2, 12 KOs) on February 1 at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in Haikou, China. That show was postponed January 23 and eventually rescheduled for May 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, near Ramirez’s hometown of Avenal.
As of Wednesday night, fans still were welcome to attend a Premier Boxing Champions card scheduled for Saturday night at MGM National Harbor as well. MGM National Harbor is located in southwest Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
The PBC card, which FS1 will televise starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, will feature former junior middleweight contender James Kirkland (34-2, 30 KOs), of Austin, Texas, and Fresno’s Marcos Hernandez (14-3-1, 3 KOs) in the 10-round main event. A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland and Washington, D.C, thus Tim Smith, PBC’s vice president of communications, didn’t discount at least the possibility of the company’s card occurring without fans.
“This is a fluid situation that’s literally changing by the second,” Smith said. “We have to do what’s in the best interests of the public. As more information becomes available, we’ll act accordingly.”