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23rd May 2020

Environment Dillian Whyte v Alexander Povetkin could be behind closed doors, says Eddie Hearn

Environment Dillian Whyte v Alexander Povetkin could be behind closed doors, says Eddie Hearn

Environment

environment Dillian Whyte poses at a weigh-in
Dillian Whyte was due to fight Alexander Povetkin in May

Briton Dillian Whyte’s heavyweight clash against Alexander Povetkin could be the first major fight to take place behind closed doors, says Eddie Hearn.

Whyte was to fight the Russian in Manchester on 2 May before the bout was postponed by the coronavirus outbreak.

“When Whyte knocks out Povetkin, stands on the turnbuckle and there’s six people watching, it will be weird,” promoter Hearn told BBC Sport.

“But I want people to tune in and say ‘wow’.”

Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing organisation is planning to stage “two or three” Saturday fight nights in July before returning with a bigger show soon after.

‘Boxing in a TV studio does nothing for the sport’

With big-time boxing now synonymous with boisterous crowds at packed arenas, Hearn admits it will be difficult to create the same atmosphere if Whyte v Povetkin is staged behind closed doors.

“When Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline is playing and you opens the curtain and see 20,000 people screaming, it’s quite easy to peak if you’re a good fighter. But doing that behind closed doors is going to be a different kind of challenge,” he said.

Without a crowd, promoters may host fights in a television studio. But Hearn says he is planning a more creative approach.

“I don’t see how boxing in a studio does anything for the sport,” he said. “It’s four walls in a dark environment with no character or personality.

“I want to build a fight camp, a different kind of environment, more dramatic. It will look spectacular on TV. We need to dramatise it.

“It’s about taking over a hotel, testing all the teams, creating a sterile fight camp where no-one goes in until we know they’ve had a negative test. It’s about creating changing room areas, ring walks. It will add to the story.”

On Thursday, the British Boxing Board of Control contacted promoters like Hearn stating it was “hopeful” boxing will resume in July, though any such move will depend on government guidance.

The organisation said it was “unlikely” fans will be able to attend and added anyone at the shows – from boxers to trainers and promoters – will need to be tested for Covid-19.

A “pre-tournament quarantine” will also be mandatory.

‘This will demolish other sports’

However, with the coronavirus pandemic halting sport across the globe, a July return is dependent on the availability of medical staff at ringside.

Hearn said: “We require a number of doctors to be present at our shows and if they’re required to treat Covid-19 patients or if they’re required to ease the stress on the NHS, then we’re not going [ahead], we can’t. It’s ridiculous.”

Matchroom Boxing has been forced to postpone six shows so far but Hearn believes his organisation – and boxing as a whole – remains in a good place.

“We’ve lost money for a number of shows but we run a proper business, we have resources and funds so can ride a wave like this whilst others can’t,” he said. “We have had the momentum [that] other sports don’t have.

“Like in business, if your sport was struggling before this, then you’re in dire straits. This is going to badly affect and demolish certain sports.”

Mental health and Twitter exchange with Morgan

Hearn has told his fighters to stay in shape and “be ready for the call” once the green light for boxing’s return is given. Although he says some boxers have been suffering during lockdown.

“There have been a few fighters who have really struggled mentally, some that already had problems coming into this,” he said.

“Boxing has saved a lot of these fighters from going down a bad path, and now the sport has been taken away from them. They need to be in their environment; being in a gym, with their team, with that discipline and regimented training.”

“I was just saying to Piers you only ever tweet something terrible about the death toll rising, but you never give positive news if it has fallen,” Hearn said.

“Right now, everybody is concerned and worried about their future, it doesn’t matter what job you do. We need to give them reassurances. Some ray of hope and positivity.”

‘Not wise’ for GB stars to go pro

environment McCracken says he is encouraged some fighters see a delay to the Olympics as a chance to improve
Team GB performance director Rob McCracken says he has been “reassured” by his amateur fighters that they are committed to the rearranged Olympics

Representing a stable of almost 100 fighters, Hearn says there will be a lot of “reshuffling” to do over the next six months, which will make it difficult for him to sign additional boxers.

With the Tokyo Olympics moved to 2021, he does not think that Team GB boxers should turn professional and are better off staying amateur until after the competition.

“It’s not wise, they’re better off going to the Olympics,” he said. “When we sign an amateur, we like to box them eight times a year, that will put a huge pressure on us.

“Big-time boxing won’t get back until later this year. By the time that comes around, you only have to wait six months.

“So I’d say go to the Olympics, get a medal and increase your profile.”

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