The COVID-19 pandemic has affected boxing in Nigeria much like it has the rest of the sporting world. As at Tuesday, May 12, the country has recorded 4,787 confirmed cases with 158 casualties and 959 recoveries.
Nevertheless, the nation’s leading promoters are resolute in the face of adversity.
Despite the fight business grounding to a halt in the Country without any foreseeable resumption time frame, two of the leading promoters told BoxingAfrica.com that they are forging ahead with plans for fight cards during the second half of the year.
Jenkins Alumona, Managing Director/CEO of Flykite Productions, and Prince Stanley Williams, CEO of Monarch Events and Promotions say their respective outfits were dramatically impacted by the current crisis.
“The plan was to hold between four and six promotions this year,” said Flykite’s Alumona. ‘This would help improve the records and experience of our local boxers. We aimed to expose them internationally, leading to world title wins as the dream is to produce our own locally-based Anthony Joshua.”
Williams of Monarch had similar plans. “We had two cards we had to postpone; a show in Accra, Ghana and another in Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. Several of our Nigerian fighters were billed to fight on the cards as the focus and target remains to help Nigerian boxers fight internationally for exposure and rankings as well as titles.”
Both companies incurred losses as they had already made financial commitments on several events before the coronavirus forced them to either postpone or cancel those shows.
“We had held a press conference and paid sanctioning fees for two WBF African titles for two Nigerians to fight for the titles, one actually for an Inter-Continental title and many suppliers were paid,” said Alumona. “But, as you can see, the virus has affected the entire boxing world and every promoter is affected. Yes, there were losses everywhere for us and boxers too as their means of livelihood at this period is not guaranteed. It’s tough for everyone.”
Monarch’s losses extended beyond Nigerian borders.
“We had already paid for venues and paid several suppliers and artists,” Williams explained. “Some fighters already flew to Accra while others were making arrangements but we had to postpone.”
Alumona is hoping that fights can take place in the second half of the year but no firm timetable is in place.
“We are hoping that things will normalize for us to get back and when it does and we get the go ahead from the authorities for large congregation of persons then we will fix a new date for the next event,” he said. “In Nigeria there is no date yet from government for such and so we cannot plan with any vague date and we have not considered fighting behind closed doors and I don’t think we will.”
Still, Alumona is optimistic that things will return to normal.
“I am one hundred percent sure that boxing in Nigeria will return to how it used to be when this goes away, but I cannot say when. But surely gradually it will. Let’s just be patient for now.”
Williams said Monarch Promotions still plans to hold its flagship shows.
“Boxfest and King of the Ring have come to stay,” he declared. “We will schedule as soon as we are in the clear to go and King of the Ring is our end of the year show in Lagos and we hope to return with a bigger and better card. We hope all will be well as we look forward to good times returning.”
To cushion the impact of the hard times boxers in his fold are facing, Williams said, “We have always supported our fighters and we have done well enough during this time as we know most fighters depend on fight purse to get by. We have been sending palliatives to those who needed them most. We are doing our best.
“We want to be one of the companies that helps curb the virus and not one that helped to spread it. We are saddened that many lives have been lost but we appeal to all to stay away from anything that will help the virus spread. Do as the authorities direct with personal hygiene and stay safe.”
“Fans should stay safe and obey regulations as we hope that this time will pass and we will continue our march towards re-positioning boxing in the country. When we return, we hope to up the excitement and make the fans forget the sad times we have had.”
— Ralph Chidozie George, Twitter: @ralphcgeorge