Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn wants to stage the UK’s first professional boxing show with fans for six months on Sept. 12.
Hearn is planning to get UK Government approval for the event to be held at a London venue in front of a crowd of 200 to 400, which would be the first boxing event open to the public since March when restrictions came into effect to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Spectators will attend the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield from July 31 as part of COVID-19 guidance stress-tests. Cricket and horse racing test-events with fans are also planned in the UK this summer, ahead of a wider reopening for supporters at sports events from October.
“We were lucky enough to be one of the test events for the government with the world snooker and it’s been arduous process,” Hearn said on a Zoom call with reporters. “They’re not just going to turn round and say: ‘Ok, everyone is welcome back.’ You have to put these proposals forward.
“So, our next step within Matchroom Sport after — because it’s going to be around 400 people with the snooker — is can we get that same kind of amount in the O2, York Hall, Crystal Palace Leisure Centre or wherever we choose to in September which is very likely to be headlined by Joshua Buatsi and hopefully a world title fight for Chantelle Cameron as well. I’d like to think that could be boxing’s test event on Sept. 12.
“I think it’s the right kind of time to try — whether it’s 100, 200, 400, those kind of numbers — and start the process. The only way we’re going to get to start filling venues again is to go through the right channels and processes to prove to people it’s safe.
“It’s not just the government — they will set the regulations and legislation — it’s getting the venues to be on side as well because it’s expensive.”
Talks with the British government over staging a boxing test event with a small crowd is the next step for Hearn.
“If we’re going to plan for September and have a crowd, that process really needs to start now,” Hearn added.
“We can’t turn around on Sept. 1 and say, ‘We’ve got a show in two weeks, you can come.’ What we want to do is say, ‘Thank you for the snooker, obviously we’re going to wait to see how that goes but we just want to let you know our plans for September. So subject to a successful test period of those three sports, are you OK to look at this option? I’d be very surprised if we couldn’t get 100 or 200 in a venue, subject to successful test events.
“I don’t think it’s going to go successful test events, 20,000. He’s [Prime Minister Boris Johnson] already made it clear that October will see the return of live events subject to social distancing. It’s just the interpretation of how that looks for boxing — probably increased security measures, track and trace, no bars, no concourses. We went through the modelling for the snooker — thankfully I wasn’t leading that — but it’s taken months to get that right and get that approved.”
Hearn says test events, with the gradual return of fans, is an important step towards getting his star names back into action. The likes of WBA-IBF-WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua are not expected to box until late this year.
Hearn added: “The bigger issue for us is when you look across the bigger names in the stable — Billy Joe Saunders, Josh Warrington, Callum Smith if he doesn’t get the Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez fight, Kell Brook if he doesn’t get the Terrence Crawford fight — is that they are all dependent on gate revenue. Anthony Joshua, which would be end of November, maybe even first week of December, but the only way we’re going to get to 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 15,000 is to start the process for our sport and that will only come via government approval.”
Boxing in the UK resumed earlier this month when Hearn’s British rival Frank Warren staged a show at BT Studios in east London. Hearn will begin a series of four weekly shows in the back garden of Matchroom’s office headquarters in Essex on Aug. 1, and Matchroom also has a show scheduled for Aug. 15 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, US.