Boxing: How soon will fans watch fights live again? Analysts weigh in

Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2020 06:06 PM

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected sports in general, forcing organizers to cancel live events especially in sports such as boxing. 

Although boxing already has loyal following, fight analyst Ed Tolentino and Dennis Principe agreed that the live attendance will suffer even if the virus wanes out.

"Dito sa atin, mahihirapan talaga. Even before the pandemic, hirap na humatak ng tao ang mga fight cards, unless you stage it in a hotbed like Cebu," said Tolentino.

"On the international level, I think it will take some time before things normalize."

Several promotions like Top Rank and Matchroom Sports have already rescheduled their fight cards through April in response to the COVID-19 threat. 

Among those postponed are Jerwin Ancajas' supposed world junior bantamweight title defense against Jonathan Rodriguez on April 12, and John Riel Casimero's triple bantamweight title unification with Naoya Inoue on April 25.

Even if those fight cards push through, Principe predicts that fans will be forced to think twice before attending a live boxing match. 

"Alam nating hindi biro itong pandemic. The entire world pinatigil niya. Even if we control the virus, at the back of everyone's mind mayroong stigma. May phobia," he said.

Principe said promoters will have to make a shift to other means of holding fight cards

"One way is through livestreaming . . . Marami nang sport ang lumaki dahil sa livestreaming," said Principe.

DAZN and ESPN Plus are among those that have already experimented with this setup.

Principe, however, acknowledged that this medium is still in its infancy.

"Hindi pa nape-perfect ang sistema na makinabang ang mga promoters sa livestreaming. Kalaban mo pa rin sa huli 'yung illegal streaming," he said.

Tolentino said that in the end, promoters will still rely on live audience, albeit in a more controlled manner.

"Remember the good old days when promoters staged ballroom boxing, before a limited audience?" he said. "That may be the case when boxing returns, it will be in a controlled, limited environment."

"Hindi pa rin mawawala ang crowd. Iba pa din ang energy the crowd brings to the fights."

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).