WBC setting up judging from home via video for pro boxing

Sports

Boxing gloves of Eyed Akeel Khan lie on the floor of the room where he practices in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, April 23, 2020. Like many other athletes, the coronavirus pandemic has restricted Khan to his home. But lockdown for the 7 million residents of Kashmir is nothing new and the ongoing restrictions due to the pandemic is not the first time he has had to practice his sport at home. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

LONDON (AP) — WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman expects professional boxing to return without spectators and with judges officiating by video from home.

Sulaiman said the World Boxing Council has produced a protocol for fights during the coronavirus pandemic that limit, for instance, a four-fight card to about 40-50 people at a venue. Those numbers include one handler for each fighter, boxing commission supervisors, media and TV production crews.

“The judges will be judging from home via access to the live video,” Sulaiman said by video conference this week.

“The video we would have without commentary of the television network so it’s a clean international feed. They are in secure communication. The judges score the round, it gets fed into the system administration, it gets to the supervisor and the local commission. There is a contingency plan for failure of connections. So we have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.”

All people at the venue would be tested for COVID-19.

“We all are tired of watching TV, and old fights. I do really think that with responsibility, taking all the precautions with a very well-prepared protocol, we could have boxing events again without any risk,” he said.

Sulaiman believed it could be up to two years before pro boxing looks like as it was, and urged promoters “to be pioneers with ideas.”

He added the WBC will be flexible on dates for champions having to take mandatory challenges.

As an example, he said Nordine Oubaali was set to defend his bantamweight title against Nonito Donaire, a four-weight champ. A purse bid was accepted and only a date and American venue were to be finalized before boxing was shut down.

“(Oubaali) lives in France and he has been in an apartment, completely in lockdown for 40-50 days. No sparring, no training,” Sulaiman said. “That’s a different scenario from a fighter who could be in the United States or Mexico with sparring (privileges), with training and full facilities. We’re going to work together with them, with the promoters. (Oubaali) might not be able to travel for three or four months. There is no mandate from the WBC that will hurt any person, any fighter, any promoter.”

But IBF lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez said he was prepared to further delay his unification bout with WBC-WBA-WBO champ Vasiliy Lomachenko — originally scheduled for May 30 — until fans were allowed to fill venues because he feared fights without spectators “won’t work” at stopping boxers contracting the coronavirus.

“I feel like it won’t work. That’s why I feel like one fighter will probably get it during those times that they are trying to entertain the fans,” Lopez said by video conference from his sister-in-law’s Arkansas home, where he decamped to from New York.

Lopez said he understood where boxing organizations and promoters were coming from, but said he thinks it’s too soon.

“I’m not going to fight without seeing what’s really going on,” Lopez aid. “I want to make sure that no fighter is getting infected, no fighter is getting the coronavirus and everything. I want to see firsthand how it works. If it does go smoothly, like (they) planned that it will be, then we could talk about having a fight without the fans.”

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