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Bob Arum discusses COVID protocol plans for coming Top Rank shows

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The Top Rank promoter is headed outside of the MGM “bubble,” and is planning to be cautious in the short term.

Jamel Herring v Jonathan Oquendo Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images

Where exactly are we as a nation regarding COVID and how people are behaving? It sure seems to me in the East, as the temps edge up, thoughts of spring are conjured. People I know are reserving tickets to see live music, and anyone reading this has a good idea that plenty of people are expected in Texas when Canelo Alvarez faces Billy Joe Saunders in what should be his stiffest stylistic test since Gennadiy Golovkin.

I had that in mind as I was talking to the Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum about the 55th anniversary of his first promotion, which came March 29, 1966: Muhammad Ali versus George Chuvalo in Toronto, because Ali was too nuclear at the time after taking an anti-war stand when requested by the government to enter the military. I was curious, where is Arum in terms of booking Top Rank shows in bigger venues, outdoors or indoors?

“(UFC’s) Dana White is moving forward with fights with fans in the building, he’s done it very proactively,” Arum said. “Maybe it’s because we both program for ESPN.”

Top Rank has events set April 10 in Oklahoma and April 24 in Florida.

“Our two shows in April will have some spectators, but there will be very, very strict protocols,” he added.

As I admitted to Arum, I have had fears about some of the events I’ve seen the last few months. Arum said he’s liking the direction of the vaccination push and figures we’ll see some of that progress when on May 22, for the Jose Ramirez-Josh Taylor 140 unfication scrap, Top Rank will show some innovative wrinkles in their pandemic-dampening protocol.

“With safe seating, we are in constant touch with state medical authorities. We could see a deal where you can buy a little section, and be able to carve out a decent nook of space, as long as your crew had proof of vaccination. There’s ample evidence that vaccinated people can be around each other sans mask, so hopefully in the next four-to-eight weeks we see more and more of that.

“Now in Texas, because of the Governor of the state being what he is, if they can shove as many as people as they can in they’re happy to do it,” Arum said. “I’m not gonna do it, it’s not for me, it’s not right. C’mon, in a another few months, we can go back to full stadium baseball. I caution patience now. If they want to take full advvantage of the law, who am I to say they’re wrong? Maybe I’m wrong.”

Arum is also of the belief that many people — lots of fighters and managers and such — didn’t really wrap their collective head around how the pandemic so heavily affected revenue streams, and how that’s going to affect money going forward.

My Three Cents: I think the economic pop out of the pandemic will be intense. The pent up feelings that collected are going to be bouncing around, in so many forms. One will be people pursuing a YOLO+ outlook, soaking up new experiences. Going to high level prizefights is going to be an immense part of that. A lot of the “stimulus relief” money is being done on a slow-walk dispersal basis because they want you to spend it, buying things and experiences.