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Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Hobble Boxing? There’s a Precedent for It

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  • Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Hobble Boxing? There’s a Precedent for It

    Click image for larger version  Name:	Corona.PNG Views:	1 Size:	197.2 KB ID:	16403

    By Arne K. Lang

    “Influenza Halts Boxing Activity” read the headline above an Oct. 13, 1918 story in the New York Times. “Promoters in Philadelphia, Boston, and New Jersey, in compliance with their different Health Departments, have agreed to close up shop,” read the story. “How long the sport will be idle remains to be seen, but it is positive that no matches of any importance will be undertaken while the (Spanish flu) epidemic continues.”

    The epidemic was misnamed. It may have actually originated at Fort Riley, a U.S. military reservation in northwest Kansas. This wasn’t merely an epidemic but a pandemic, and ultimately the most awful pandemic afflicting mankind in the 20th century, killing many more people than in the conterminous war raging in Europe, an estimated 675,000 deaths in the United States alone.

    I wouldn’t want to compare the current situation regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus, with the great pandemic that struck with particular vehemence in the final months of World War I. That would be akin to crying fire in a crowded theater. Workers in the various health professions have more advanced tools at their disposal nowadays. Moreover, back then there was a shortage of nurses and doctors in the U.S. because so many were in the military.

    But nonetheless, reports are troubling.

    According to an Associated Press article published on March 2, the coronavirus has spread to more than 60 countries, infecting more than 88,000, of whom more than 3,000 have died. Ground Zero is the Hubei Province in China, home to the flashpoint city of Wuhan, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the deaths and more than 95 percent of the recorded infections. The economic effects have been devastating, particularly in countries like Italy where the economy is so heavily dependent on tourism.

    What hasn’t changed in over 100 years are the recommended precautions that people are advised to take to diminish their risk of exposure. In 1918, Royal S. Copeland, the New York City Health Commissioner, came out with a list of do’s and don’ts. The first two entries were “Keep away from the cougher, sneezer, and spitter who does not use a handkerchief” and “Keep out of crowds whenever possible.” If one resided close to one’s workplace, it was recommended that one walk to work rather than use public transportation.

    The cessation of boxing in Philadelphia came on the heels of an edict by the Pennsylvania Health Department that closed every place of amusement in the Keystone State to prevent large crowds from forming. As I write this, both Disney amusement parks in Tokyo are closed until further notice as is the Louvre in Paris, which has 2300 employees.

    At the time of the embargo, the fight attracting the most buzz was the match between Salt Lake City knockout artist Jack Dempsey and veteran campaigner Battling Levinsky. It was originally scheduled for Oct. 9, 1918 at Shibe Park, the home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. With Philadelphians encouraged to avoid non-essential travel, the promoters quickly realized that this venue was too large and shifted the fight to an indoor arena before they had to postpone it.

    Here’s the good news. In Philadelphia, the order prohibiting boxing matches was quickly rescinded. Dempsey and Levinsky fought on Nov. 6. Dempsey knocked Levinsky out in the third round with a roundhouse right to the jaw and had two more fights in Philadelphia before the year was out. The following year he annihilated Jess Willard to win the world heavyweight title in a match that would set records for attendance and gate receipts – records that would soon be shattered. And so, the fallow in boxing resulting from the twin burdens of war and disease gave way to the sport’s most glorious era.

    Boxing, of course, wasn’t the only major sport impacted by the spread of the so-called Spanish flu. College football was especially hurt with only a handful of teams playing a full schedule. The decision to cancel games was made easier by the fact that so many coaches and players had enlisted or been drafted into the Army.

    The stock market roared back today (Monday, March 2) after a dismal week in which the Dow Jones plunged 14 percent from a recent high, the worst weekly decline since 2008. Hopefully that’s a sign that the COVID-19 scourge is abating. In the meantime, boxing promoters around the world -- indeed, sports promoters of all stripes -- are keeping a wary eye on the situation.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    The stock market roared back today in what could be a classic bear trap. Any sports that draws a large crowd is at risk. If one domino falls, look out below!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • #3
      Got this right except i should have sold. Goodbye boxing for a while.

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      • #4
        The thought of sitting at ringside right now for some local slobber knocker show gives me cause for pause. We all know how dirty boxing is. It’s absolutely filthy. The ring and its supporting equipment is usually gross. It’s just not a sanitary environment at all. And even if it’s “clean” it will soon be covered in blood, sweat, and snot and so too will everyone at ringside. On those nights when I do cover a show, I always feels little “sick” from all that human contact and bad air. Boxing is at risk of being shuttered soon until they have this thing better under control.

        No COVID19 here in Maine by the way. And no panic.

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        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment
          Ugh, Don't forget smegma!!!!!!!?

      • #5
        This piece is really remarkably prescient. 👍

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        • #6
          So it is April 11th now and we sure have a bit more of an idea of what is going on at least some feeling of the facts. The longer this virus goes on the worst it is for sport as a whole. Geez aint that wise. At some point a person like me gets a little bit tiered of staying informed by people who have the megaphone as to what is going to happen to boxing. Most are doing the same thing speculating about an unknown. If you find that exciting go to the latest fistinados poscast forget the number. Other then that we got looks at old fights, grabing anything to try and stay relevant if that is even possible right now. For sure those who were irritated at the people they insultingly called "Casual Fans" Casual fans will become a casualty if they stick with the sport because they will become introduced to boxing from the 90's 80's 70's and so on they will get history lessons on the sport and get real up close and personal with those that put out reviews of boxing which do not exist unless they review got it old fights. So the virus may knock off casuals as they were known. Never liked that word. OH the promoters are speculating from time to time even starting to insult each other a little bit if that holds interest, and fighters are talking about what else fights that are not going to happen or really just speculating on fights a bit more "R" rated is all. If it was my job to keep it relevant and interesting in this time I know what I would do. But I aint talking right now.

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          • Kid Blast
            Kid Blast commented
            Editing a comment
            Not fair to tease. What would you do?

        • #7
          This piece is really remarkably prescient

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