A full slate of boxing cards scheduled over the next couple of weeks was wiped clean in a few days as various commissions decided to cancel events throughout the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of now, nobody really knows when fight cards will resume in the United States.
Top Rank cards this past Saturday and Tuesday, scheduled at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, were initially adjusted to have no fans. Ultimately they were canceled on Thursday.
Golden Boy Promotions had cards scheduled for this Thursday at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, California, and March 28 at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Both were also canceled on Thursday as the California State Athletic Commission made the decision to call off all combat events until at least the end of the month.
Las Vegas followed suit on Saturday, canceling all combat events until March 25, a deadline many expect to be extended.
How did the last-minute decision affect the fighters? Where do they go from here? ESPN spoke to several fighters to get their reactions.
What was your reaction to the cancellation?
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Frank Espinoza Jr., manager of Jessie Magdaleno, featherweight, scheduled to fight Sakaria Lukas on March 14 in New York, and Raul Curiel, scheduled to fight on March 28 in Inglewood, California: We were keeping a close eye on it the past few days. We were told that the fights in New York were going to be put on possibly without the fans. But things made a quick turn once the president stopped some of the flights from Europe. Also, once the NBA had a player with the coronavirus, everything just changed right after that and trickled down to everything else.
I’d be lying if I said that some of them weren’t concerned, but they did a good job in keeping it professional. But it was also heartbreaking because this is how they make a living, this is what they do. They were expecting that paycheck, ready to go to work, and to be pulled out last minute was devastating for them.
Did you agree with the decision to cancel the fights?
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Mayer: It’s so weird because you enjoy that week after you fight, a week or two, it’s fun. You don’t have any worries, and then all of a sudden, you’re like, “OK, OK, get back … what do you do? You’re a fighter — get back to the gym, get back to the routine. That’s your purpose.” So that’s what I’m going to get back to right away. There’s really no time to enjoy anything since I didn’t win a fight. We want those world titles this year — I have to get ready for them. These girls are just honestly letting me get better and better, to be honest. The more things happen, the more these girls turn down these title fights with me, all these issues. I’m just getting better and better and better, and I know I’ll take those titles soon.
Gonzalez: Honestly, we’re just hoping the fight can remain the same with the same opponent, but I’m just training in the gym, staying in shape, keeping my weight down, and that’s pretty much it.
Vargas: Boxing is all I do, man. I live in Toronto, Canada; right now I’m in Las Vegas. It doesn’t look like I’ll be traveling anytime soon — the airports are kind of closing down. So I’m stuck here for a bit. My life revolves around boxing. Everything revolves around boxing — the fights, the training camps, the way of income, the way of life. It’s all I know.
But right now, the problem is bigger than boxing, bigger than sports. So I just want everyone to get together, as a community as humans, as humanity, and just sort it out. So we can go on with our lives.
Moylette: I’m looking forward to getting home to my family and pregnant wife. I’ll take all the necessary precautions to make sure we all stay safe. I will be back in the gym this week just ticking over. It’s all I know now. I can’t just [get mad]. It’s hard to plan as nobody knows what’s going to happen over the next few months. I will be ready on the turn of a coin. I have to be. It could be July or August or even later before we all get back to normal. If the call comes tomorrow, I’ll be ready.
Is the worst thing for a boxer to train and then not fight?
Conlan: Yes, it’s 10 weeks away from my family. Forget about the money — think of the time. Time is something you can’t ever get back. You can always get money back, but time is something that will never come back.
The time I spent away from my children, and now it’s going to be more time away from them because it’s going to be a little gap in time with my next fight after this. I’ll take a few days off and then get straight back to work, again.
Would you fight in an empty venue?
Featherweight Joet Gonzalez wasn’t happy with the cancellation but says he understands the decision. Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Roach: I think so, because we’re only seven days out and we’ve already worked out for eight weeks to get our weight down, get sharp. I’ve got a lot of rounds sparring. That’s a lot of work on the body, and to go through that and not perform, and not get paid, as well? That’s a bummer.
Gonzalez: I don’t mind. I’m still going to get paid, and as long as I got that check, it’s all good to me. Fans or no fans, I just want to fight. The goal is to fight. So it would’ve been OK with me.
Vargas: If that was an option, absolutely — we’re fighters. You train for a fight, you put in so many hours of sacrifice and discipline, you’re not going to back down if there’s a crowd, or no crowd. I mean, it’ll be a little weird, or unusual, but in the ring it’s just you and the opponent. That should be enough.
ESPN’s Dan Rafael contributed to this report.