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COVID-19 could prove to be the hardest fight for most boxers

In a sport of dedication, routine and structure, this forced break to the boxing schedule will prove life-changing.

Not Released Boxing Photo by Zoran Milich/Getty Images

You don’t need telling how devastating the COVID-19 pandemic is proving globally. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to the virus so far, with country after country resorting to “lockdown” measures in an attempt to limit the spread.

It is almost impossible for populations to work or spend as much as they used to. A tree does not bloom in frost, and a frozen economy does not produce income.

Different countries have taken different precautions; various leaders have given contradicting advice, but the lasting legacy of this virus within the community will be a steeper, more challenging mountain to climb in the following months.

With a recession year expected in every advanced economy, the governments around the world are faced with the unenviable challenge of juggling stability with growth, fighting hard not to leave the most vulnerable in society behind.

Now, we’re here to talk boxing. Despite fears for every segment of society, boxing represents a microcosm of the world that encompasses it.

Boxing has long been a sport swimming upstream, attempting to wade through the currents caused by the rival, mainstream sports, stunting its progression. Seasonal sports where players sign for a club or franchise offer stability in contracts not available to a vast number of fighters who live paycheck to paycheck in an attempt to make ends meet.

Our sport is built on a foundation of boxers who require regular fights to keep their families afloat. Your Canelos, Anthony Joshuas and Floyd Mayweathers make the headlines with their financial plumage, but to create a superstar of the future requires thousands of fighters feeding into the system at the bottom of the pyramid.

It’s the 1% at the top that reaches a level of financial security, with the beating heart and soul of boxing left to scrap for the last flake of meat on a devoured bone.

During this standstill, fighters who aren’t able to fight can’t afford to train. Other avenues of employment will be explored out of desperation, with the fears of a max exodus at the bottom of the pyramid a growing reality the longer boxing is ground to a halt.

We’ve all seen the patronising videos of “celebrities” in their mansion’s giving you tips of how to brave the storm during “lockdown”. These privileges aren’t accessible for a vast majority of fighters, with their mental health and general well-being affected considerably during this unprecedented time.

Boxing is a lonely sport. It’s you against the world for a majority of your career, with your coach and stablemates the only comfort during back-breaking training camps looking find those marginal gains. Research has also shown that boxers may be more vulnerable to mental health issues than those competing in other disciples.

Tyson Fury is well documented in saying that a regular training regime is enough to have “saved his life”. Plenty of other fighters will be experiencing the same struggle as their routine, schedule and purpose have been torn to pieces without any predictable time scale of a return.

It’s the job of governments across the globe to ensure nobody is left behind as countries begin to piece themselves back together in the aftermath of COVID-19.

It’s the job of boxing’s powers that be to reflect that mission on boxing’s pyramid to ensure our sport can continue to grow and thrive in years to come.

Without a foundation of fighters, coaches, officials and gym staff who commit their lives to the sport at a grassroots level, boxing would have hit the canvas a long time ago.

Whether they are rewarded for their loyalty will be uncovered throughout the rest of 2020.

You can follow Lewis Watson @lewroyscribbles

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