Frank Warren: Boxing could face 'serious decisions' for big fights to happen

By Luke ReddyBBC Sport boxing reporter
Warren (left) wants to find a way for fighters like Tyson Fury to return to action in a viable manner
Warren (left) wants to find a way for fighters like WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury to return to action in a viable manner

Promoter Frank Warren says boxing may need to make "serious decisions" on a way forward as the sport gears up for its return in the UK on Friday.

A first show since the coronavirus shutdown will take place behind closed doors at BT Sport Studio, with fighters isolating for up to four days before.

Warren says the safety measures present challenges in staging a show.

"We will lose money but it's important the sport remains relevant and is seen," Warren told BBC Sport.

"There is nothing normal about this new reality."

Warren - now in his 40th year in professional boxing - has never faced the kind of safety, hygiene and logistical challenges that must be overcome for the sport to return successfully in the UK.

Fighters and those working at the event must be rigorously tested, a hotel must be provided for individuals to isolate and on fight night, referees must shower between bouts while the ring is cleaned by a specialist company.

Each safety protocol - as well as the payment of the 10 fighters on the card - must be delivered against a backdrop of no pay-per-view or ticket sale revenue.

And Warren is concerned the sport may soon have to find a way for highly-paid, big-name fighters to compete behind closed doors if they are not to risk a year or more out of the ring.

"We have rescheduled Daniel Dubois against Joe Joyce for October and we hope we can get it done - hopefully in front of a live crowd," says Warren.

"If we can't, the likes of Tyson Fury will want to fight. He cannot be out for a year. A boxer's career is short. They have to capitalise when they are young. I feel we will have to make some serious decisions."

Without a live gate, Warren says boxing will need to address its financial model. Some promoters have raised the prospect of cutting the purses earned by fighters.

The only other ways to generate revenue would be through more pay-per-view fight nights or by using host venues that pay a substantial fee to stage a fight, as has previously been the case in places like Saudi Arabia and Las Vegas.

Asked if marquee names like Fury could compete behind closed doors, Warren said: "It's very challenging and difficult but it may come to a stage where that needs to be.

"We generate probably 30 to 40% from gate revenue so it's how we compensate for that. Fingers crossed it doesn't get to that."

'I don't want sterile' - what to expect

Super-Bantamweight Brad Foster will top the bill at Warren's show on Friday
Super-bantamweight Brad Foster will top the bill at Warren's show on Friday

British super-bantamweight champion Brad Foster, 22, tops the bill on Friday. The supermarket worker knows a win over James Beech Jnr will ensure he gets to keep the Lord Lonsdale belt for good.

Both fighters were tested for coronavirus in recent weeks and will be tested twice during fight week, where they must stay in the hotel Warren has booked out.

On fight night, the five bouts will be overseen by two referees, who will each shower between bouts and wear face masks during the action. The ring announcer will conduct his duties from outside the ring.

Warren admits to being "excited" and "apprehensive" about live boxing returning to television screens.

"Most sports react to a live audience and there won't be one," he adds. "There's no home fighter with a crowd so no one is going into somebody else's back yard.

"I don't want it to be sterile. Some of the early football matches after the lockdown could not hold my attention, it was like watching training.

"We know boxers will give their all. It's a fantastic opportunity for the guys to make a name for themselves. They would be on an undercard and they are getting the chance to get exposure and I expect some to grasp it with both hands."

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