At midnight on the 24th May, the government released guidance that training for elite athletes in combat sports can resume as of today, this will include sparring and coaching within the 2-metre distance.
The guidelines state that it will be the responsibility of each sport’s governing bodies to make sure that the utmost safety procedures are adhered to. Although this is welcome news for fight fans, meaning that contests are one step closer, it does throw up a number of questions around the health and safety for those involved.
Unlike the Premier League clubs who have also resumed training, boxing does not have the resources of a top tier football club.
Boxers train all over the country in facilities ranging from elite setups, such as the Sheffield institute of sport, to spit and sawdust gyms above labour clubs and in churches that have resided in their communities for over 50 years.
The idea of trying to ensure that adequate protection measures are in place for those athletes is almost impossible given the size and reach of the British Boxing Board of Control.
Secondly, there seems to be no clear definition of who an ‘elite athlete’ is, again boxing falls foul of its own lack of regulations. Being an elite boxer is somewhat subjective and every prospect trying to make a name for themselves defines themselves as an elite, top-level talent.
Ordinarily, this is taken with a pinch of salt but in unprecedented situations like this it throws up genuine questions. If being a professional defines an ‘elite athlete’ then this would encompass everyone from a 4-round debutant, to a 100-fight journeyman right through to a world champion.
Whilst I, like every other boxing fan cannot wait for the sport to return to normality, I would much rather it did so once testing measures are in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
For the sake of a few months or some official antibody testing regulations, I think that sparring and combat training is best left alone. With the contamination risk higher than, probably, any other sport it just isn’t worth endangering the lives of the athletes and those closest to them.