The fight to overcome the Coronavirus is ongoing and by no means are we out of the woods. For the sport of boxing the fight continues as promoters are in a holding pattern and many not certain about the future.
For now, though, boxing is losing the fight and the loss of revenue is extreme. Among the big four promotions that comprise Top Rank, Matchroom. PBC, and Golden Boy, there have been furloughs of employees that are support staff.
Shows, until further notice are on hold and have been cancelled through the month of June. The fighters, many who depend on trading fists as their income, they sit on the sidelines as gyms and facilities have shut their doors.
Those in boxing say, they will always fight. However, the fight to open doors again for boxing gyms could have seen the last round. This global pandemic has hit hard and caused economic hardship to those who own and operate training facilities.
Basically, a boxing gym and the fighters need each other. They work as a team and inside those gyms is where it all begins for the beginner and established professional.
For now, and until further notice, pro and amateur fighters are finding other alternatives to stay in condition. They use makeshift space in a room or garage as they isolate at home. They are in contact with their coaches that are utilizing technology as remote sessions if and when the sport resumes.
But, this is so much different than being in the gym where the sparring and proper tools for the sport are conducted. The bond with the boxing trainer and the fighter is not the same without a presence in the gym.
Many of those trainers are also out of work. They pay the rent and bills putting in their time from morning until evening as they continue to develop skills for their fighters.
Last week, headquartered in Colorado Spring, CO, USA Boxing, a non-profit organization responsible for the administration, development and promotion of Olympic style boxing in the United States, sent an email to over 50 registered boxing gyms located in the five boroughs of NYC and tri-state area.
The emails were also sent to gyms that are registered with USA Boxing around the country.
Their findings did not paint a bright picture for the future. Most, if not all responded, it will be difficult or almost impossible to open their doors again without appropriate financial assistance from the Federal government.
And as each day passes, with no end in sight with this pandemic, the days of the boxing gym could have seen their last fight.
“Nobody gets rich running a boxing gym,” said John Guapo Maresca.
Maresca, self-employed and in the boxing business for a longtime, opened the doors of Big Time Bouts in his hometown of Cartert, New Jersey last May. Simply put, 35-to 50 aspiring fighters could be shut out from their sanctuary.
He said, the owners of a boxing facility are facing a difficult and tough road, They may never reopen their doors and the government assistance has not been very receptive to his small business.
“The people who need it the most can’t afford it now, Maresca said about the fighters.” The gym owners who can help them out, can’t afford it.”
Gleason’s Gym, in Brooklyn, a boxing facility with history since 1937. Is one of the last of New York City’s thriving boxing gyms and has been the training headquarters for such legends as Jake LaMotta, Muhammad Ali and Roberto Duran.
Over 131 World Champions have trained inside the gym that was originally situated in the vicinity of Madison Square Garden. That establishment could last another round as a ton of investors and promoters have been involved there over the years.
Mendez Boxing, located in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, is another of the main boxing facilities. Not like Gleason’s, that situation is totally different and self supported. Sole partnerships, sponsors. monthly and daily fees from the fighters also assist with keeping the doors open.
Gleason’s and Mendez, because of their reputations and with an array of good trainers, also have become a home for promoters. They use the gym as a venue and promotional outlet with open workouts of fighters that are in town for major promotions at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center.
Mendez, according to sources, and with a hefty rent, may have gone down for the count. It is nearly impossible to recover from the financial losses that are attributed to the pandemic which forced closure of all gyms last month in New York City.
On the other hand, Pat Russo, a retired NYPD sergeant and founder of Cops & Kids, is optimistic to keep the doors open with two gyms in Staten Island and one in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn.
The gym in Brooklyn is under reconstruction and that has been pushed back which caused another setback for the kids.
The goal has always been to keep kids off the street after the PAL ceased their boxing programs in 2009.
Russo, too, depends on funding and fundraisers. His annual event for amatuer fighters, in the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden, was cancelled last month. He is at home and applying for the small business assistance.
Though that process of applying for assistance is difficult to navigate, and it could be a long time before any of that money comes to the rescue.
“This is our busiest time, our worst possible time to happen,” he said. For now, 1,000 kids are also at home and looking forward to returning back to the gym.
“We’re very lucky in that we have very generous landlords who donate the space,” Russo said. “ Our landlord gives us the space. We don’t have to worry about rent and utilities. “
Coaches at Cops & Kids are reciprocated for their time with stipends. But the goal, as Russo says, is to keep the kids busy and off the streets.
“I don’t Know how you can possibly survive, you go month to month,’ Russo said. “You don’t have a surplus account. It’s so important that we remain open. Our kids are the poorest that come only because it’s free.”
He added, “It puts them in a better place. We have to remain open.”
And the gyms hope to remain open. But this will be the biggest fight for the sport and everyday is crucial for the boxing gym.
“When this is over I’m done if the government gives nothing,” Maresca said. “Unless somebody comes out of somewhere to keep me afloat there is no way. “
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