Quebec boxing promoters eager to resume bouts behind closed doors

Quebec's two top boxing promoters are itching to hold cards as soon as possible — without any fans in the audience.

Groupe Yvon Michel has event booked for Sept. 19

WBO light heavyweight champion Eleider Alvarez, right, of Colombia, receives his official title belt in 2018 as Quebec boxing promoter Yvon Michel looks on. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Quebec's two top boxing promoters are itching to hold cards as soon as possible — without any fans in the audience.

Groupe Yvon Michel has already reserved Montreal's casino for an event on Sept. 19 with Kim Clavel in the main event. Montreal-based Eye of the Tiger management is also looking to get started again following weeks of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quebec's boxing promoters are following the lead of the UFC, which announced Friday that beginning May 9 it would hold three closed-door shows over eight days in Jacksonville, Florida.

GYM president Yvon Michel said in a recent interview, "many of us are looking at that with a lot of interest," regarding the resumption of boxing behind closed doors. "But the situation still has to evolve."

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Camille Estephan, president of Eye of the Tiger management, said he wants to be ready as soon as authorities give the green light.

"The timing is going to be very difficult," he said. "I don't want to speculate for the moment on when the government will make a decision ... But I am anticipating that eventually, we will find a certain normality and that the economy will start to roll."

Unlike the larger sports leagues, boxing is far more nimble, Estephan said. "Boxing can take a 180-degree turn very quickly. It's not like a big league, such as the NHL, which has 31 cities to manage. We can quickly present our product."

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South of the border, boxing promoters are more ambitious. Bob Arum, president of Top Rank Boxing, is looking to pick things up again beginning of summer.

"We first explored the possibility of using the WWE complex in Jacksonville, Florida, but nothing emerged from those discussions," said the promoter, who has more than 50 years of professional boxing experience.

"We are now studying the possibility of holding events behind closed doors in June, in California and Nevada. It's closer to us, closer to our boxers and easier to find places for our boxers to be quarantined during their training camp.

"We will obviously follow the rules dictated by the health authorities, not only for boxers, technicians and people from athletic commissions, but also the general public. We expect to have several galas behind closed doors. "

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Rules for relaxing government-imposed lockdowns on sports and entertainment have still not been issued on each side of the border, and therefore all these plans are still a matter of speculation. Quebec's gaming and liquor authority, which oversees combat sports, did not want to go into details.

"It was the public health authorities who advised us to stop all of our combat sports activities (a few weeks ago)," according to a gaming authority spokesperson. "We will wait to see what the guidelines will be in the future before we see how it would be possible to hold such events."

Michel, Estephan and Arum all estimated that holding a closed-door card and broadcasting it on television or through streaming, requires the physical presence of roughly 100 to 120 people.

"We want to keep it to a minimum," said Arum. "Boxers could only have two people in their corner, (and) the number of athletic commission staff would also be reduced to a minimum. But whether we like it or not, it has to happen with about around a hundred people. We will not be having cards with eight fights either, we would be going with cards with three or four fights."

Arum said none of this will be possible without being able to effectively test all participants.

"No one can be admitted to the site without having been tested," he said. "For that, we'll need reliable tests and results in less than 10 to 15 minutes.

"We do not know if these tests are available or not because we have an idiot in the presidency and we can not believe anything he says," said Arum, referring to Donald Trump. "According to the doctors we spoke to, these tests could be available as early as next June. Without these, we cannot organize fights, behind closed doors or not."

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