Showtime eyes July return for live boxing bouts
MANILA, Philippines— Showtime is looking to bring back live boxing to US cable television come July even as Top Rank plans to stage bouts as early as June amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza, though, said the network will have to guarantee the health and safety of everyone involved before they push through with their plans, according to a report on BoxingScene.com.
Showtime postponed four boxing telecasts due to COVID-19 and its last broadcast was on March 13.
“Obviously, we’re spending a tremendous amount of time right now trying to make the environment as safe as possible. Keep in mind that involves working with PBC as they set up protocols for the fighters and promoters…I think there’s a perception that young, healthy people are not affected. Number one, that’s not true for this particular virus,” said Espinoza in the report.
“But more importantly, the vast majority of individuals probably have someone very close to them who is high risk. Whether it’s a grandparent they take care of, or a spouse or child who might have immune conditions. For someone in my position and the other senior people at Showtime, there’s a heavy responsibility toward asking employees and freelancers to come to an event and wanting to make sure they’re as safe as possible when they return to their families.”
Arum plans to stage live fight cards, which will have four bouts each, in June, saying Top Rank is already working with Nevada officials and MGM Grand personnel in the logistics of the plans.
Showtime, meanwhile, wants to start in July to give fighters ample time to prepare and get into better ring shape.
Espinoza said that with California and Texas slowly re-opening, the boxers living in those states could finally have access to their gyms and can start sparring.
“The value is coming back with fights that matter, with fighters who have had a fair opportunity to prepare. That’s the key. Nobody wants to see fights with unprepared fighters, in meaningless tune-up fights. So, coming back in July is our target,” said Espinoza whose fight cards will still be held without audiences.
A viable venue for their fights would be a ViacomCBS sound stage in Los Angeles wherein the facility would be a perfect venue that would allow Showtime to stage multiple cards in a relatively short amount of time and everyone involved in the events would be isolated and tested for the virus.