Leading promoter Kalle Sauerland is confident that boxing will bounce back from the Coronavirus crisis with live events possibly taking place as early as June.
The Chief Boxing Officer of the World Boxing Series, who has overseen events in the United States, UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Russia, Latvia, Denmark and Norway among others, was in a typically robust and confident mood when he spoke to Boxing Social.
Sauerland gave his thoughts on a range of issues connected with how the sport can recover from its almost complete cessation since Covid-19 ravaged the global economy and sporting landscape.
“I fully expect there to be boxing events in June, but as with the rest of the world I think that in the first phase those fights will be – and should be – behind closed doors,” said Sauerland.
“Of all the territories that we deal with I expect Germany to be the leader in terms of coming back from lockdown and events being permitted,” he added, pointing to the fact that the German government had just announced that the country’s national football league – the Bundesliga – has been granted government approval to recommence on 15th May.
“In Germany – as in every country – there will be different laws and regulations, of course,” continued Sauerland. “Details are coming out in dribs and drabs at the moment. But with the Bundesliga announcement the ability to put the pressure on authorities from other sports is now there.
“In fact, Angela Merkel announced that professional sports people will be treated differently [moving forward] under the general social distancing regulations compared to the general public because it’s how they make their living. I think that’s a very fair argumentation.”
In contrast to Germany, where swift and effective government action has seen the country suffer less than 7,000 deaths from Covid-19 to date, the United Kingdom has the worst fatality figures in Europe, with over 30,000 now sadly confirmed dead.
Nevertheless, the British Boxing Board of Control have sent communications to registered promoters this week in which it states that it is “hopeful” that professional boxing will commence again in the UK from July.
Sauerland gave his take on the BBBofC guidance, which also included proposed rules for behind closed door events in the UK, including not allowing boxers to spit into buckets in their respective corners and strict restrictions on who can attend bouts.
“I’ve seen the British Boxing Board of Control’s recommendations although I haven’t to be honest looked through them in the most detail yet,” he said. “There’s certain things that stick out like a sore thumb such as no spitting into a spit bucket. Someone who’s ever done proper physical exercise before – let alone someone who’s been in a professional boxing contest – will tell you that a spit bucket is going to be very difficult not to spit in between rounds.
“There’s some other ones on there when I first read them struck me as slightly odd. For example, everyone [at events] wearing short-sleeved shirts. I’m sure there’s a reason for that but it just looks a bit odd at first sight.
“And maybe the one that’s most worrying for some people in the boxing industry is that seriously overweight people won’t be allowed. Thinking of some of the characters I know in boxing who may have fattened up during the lockdown, what’s going to happen there? What’s the definition of seriously overweight?
“So I think the list is just guidelines, but I think there’s a lot on that list that is very much open to interpretation and perhaps further explanation is required.”
Turning his attention to the financial implications of the shutdown, Sauerland argued that the sport’s biggest stars will most likely emerge relatively unscathed economically from the travails of self-isolation and social distancing.
“Boxing closed down in March,” he said. “That was the cut-off point. So we’ve lost [most of] March, [all of] April and May. Hopefully we’ll be back in June or July, so we’ll maybe lose four months or about a third of the year, so if you look at the biggest fighters then they’ve lost just one fight.
“But like I’ve said from the beginning, the ones I really feel sorry for are not the big names, because they’re in a position when boxing comes back to straight away earn very good money again. It’s the smaller fighters, the up and coming fighters, the ones on their way up who are very reliant on activity, those are the ones I feel for, not only from a financial point of view but also from a sporting point of view because they’ve had their momentum halted.”
Adopting a characteristically optimistic ‘glass half-full’ approach, Sauerland added that the prospects for the sport for the rest of the year were positive in many respects.
“I do think if we can get boxing back in June or July the damage is going to be something that we’ll overcome,” he stressed. “I think the sport can bounce back in the second half of the year.
“If we all as promoters set out to do what we tried to do earlier in the year we could end up seeing a terrific and memorable second half of the year. The biggest concern of course is that there won’t be live crowds. But at the beginning of the crisis many people thought there wouldn’t be any boxing at all this year, which would have been an absolute catastrophe.”
In what could be seen as a rallying call to the rest of the boxing industry, Sauerland concluded: “This is a disaster, but it’s a disaster that the boxing industry will overcome, from the smallest fighters to the biggest fighters, managers, agents, promoters, and of course, the loyal fans and media.
“We’re all suffering from the loss of our beloved sport, but I do believe that when we bounce back we’ll bounce back bigger and badder than ever.”
Featured image courtesy of World Boxing Super Series