The Conflicting View of Fighting in Empty Arenas
As weeks have rolled past with the bulk of Americans hunkered down in their homes, many have succumbed to an especially acute case of cabin fever. Neither the boxers, nor the boxing fans, have found themselves immune to the walls closing in. The athletes crave the roar of the crowd and fisticuffs enthusiasts are aching for a dust-up themed night on the town. Or, just in front of the television. Sadly, in the end, both groups remain frustrated and glued to a boring couch.
Naturally, the boxing world simply wants to get the gears of production back in motion. While the conclusion of this pandemic remains an x-factor it’s nearly universally believed that when boxing matches do resume, they will initially be held without audiences. This hypothetical situation has already divided boxers into two conflicting camps.
A SCRAP’S A SCRAP!!!
For boxers such as IBF world super featherweight champion Joseph “Jo-Jo” Diaz (31-1, 15 KO’s), competing in the ring is fundamentally his professional obligation. Viewing his episodes in the ring through this lens, Diaz is unconcerned about having fans going berserk in the surrounding seats. Sure, he would prefer to have them there, but if he has to earn his meal ticket in a hollow stadium, then Jo-Jo is cool with that too, as he told to AB Boxing News.
“If we have to fight with no audience, it’s no major difference to me man. I mean I spar all the time when there is only five people inside the room, where it’s just me and my trainer and the other guy and a couple of his trainers too. I don’t think it’ll be any different, I think it’s just about maintaining that mindset where you got to win no matter what.
You got to know that it’s a fucking fight. Yeah it feels like it’s not a fight, but you just got to adjust to whatever they give you. So if that ends up being the case, where I have to fight with no fans, I know that the fans are going to be there with me by heart and also watching, streaming and watching through the phones or with the TV’s.”
FOR THE LOVE OF THE FANS
Comfortably nestled in the opposing mental camp is IBF world lightweight champion Teofimo “El Brooklyn” Lopez (15-0, 12 KO’s). In Lopez’s opinion, it would be too much of a buzzkill to compete minus a seething crowd. Obviously, for fighters who share a similar mind state as El Brooklyn, they feel as though the interaction with the fans is not a negotiable option, as he explained to ESPN’s Ahora o Nunca.
“I know Bob Arum wants to put on fights in June, July and August, but I do not want to fight without fans. I am not going to fight [Vasiliy] Lomachenko or anyone without fans.”
Certainly there will be a healthy number of boxers who would rather hold and out and compete in front a cheering crowd. However, most professional pugilists don’t have an economic reality that would allow them to be so choosy. For those trapped in this scenario, with or without fans present, a check is a check!
CHOOSE YOUR LOCATION…THEN FIGHT!!
If prizefights are held for a period of time without spectators present, this also opens up a new possibility in production. The only reason that boxing matches are held in the grand venues that they are now is to maximize the largest possible revenue at the box office. Yet, if there is no audience, there is no need for the boxers to mix it up in an arena.
Bearing this in mind, it would be interesting to see if, and how, promoters change the format of the venue to help nullify the lack of thousands of screaming fans. Perhaps fight rings could be constructed on the top of a skyscraper, a tropical beach or in front of some historical outdoor monument.
Sure, these are far-fetched examples. However, they are outlandish on purpose. If there is no live audience to accommodate, then there are vastly fewer restrictions on where these matches can be held. If promoters do go this novel route, it will be fun to see how adventurous and creative they can get.
By: Bakari Simpson