| 9°C Belfast

Dave McAuley: Coronavirus crisis could ruin careers of talented boxers



Real fears: Dave McAuley is worried that boxers will miss out on both huge pay days and the peak of their careers

Real fears: Dave McAuley is worried that boxers will miss out on both huge pay days and the peak of their careers

Dave McAuley with Barney Eastwood

Dave McAuley with Barney Eastwood

Real fears: Dave McAuley is worried that boxers will miss out on both huge pay days and the peak of their careers

Former world champion Dave McAuley fears the sport of boxing is going to be hit particularly hard by the impact of coronavirus.


McAuley, a respected analyst since retiring after a highly successful career, has a real concern about just when boxing will return to normal due to the issues over mass gatherings. Even when the social distancing restrictions are eased, the ex-flyweight king believes the public will still feel uneasy about coming together to enjoy sport.

It was suggested yesterday by the British Boxing Board of Control that boxing could tentatively return in July with shows behind closed doors under severe restrictions, while Carl Frampton has hinted that his shot at WBO world super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring could take place without fans.

If the sport does return in such a manner, McAuley insists the lack of fans in the arenas will have a huge impact on the earning potential of fighters.

"There's no real inkling about when the impact of this virus will end and it wouldn't surprise me if boxing isn't back to normal until next year. Boxing is a sport in which you have a short window to be successful and because of that I really do fear this could ruin careers," said McAuley, expertly managed by Barney Eastwood throughout his career.

"There has been some talk about shows happening without fans in the arena and from a fighting point that wouldn't be that big a deal because when the lights go down it is just you and your opponent - that's all your focus - but in terms of money it would have a big impact.

"Most fighters rely on gate money and obviously promoters rely on gate money and TV money and unless there is a world title on the line the money from TV will be a lot, lot less and that means the fighter is going to earn less.

"It would just seem to me that everybody's earning power has to take a hit, the sport can't return to normal right away and for some fighters that will be a huge blow. My heart goes out to those guys who are not going to get the money they hoped for.

"For example, if you're a world champion in your 30s and you've not fought in a year then you may have missed your peak - you could easily have gone past your highest point of earning potential because that's the way boxing is. A year away from the ring is like having three years away from any other sport… you just don't know how you will come back.

"For the guys coming up, this delay because of the virus could also be a big problem. In normal circumstances it's often a slow process to get into contention for a good title so you can earn decent money and with this coronavirus I think it's going to make it even harder.

"Most guys can't just go straight into an important fight after 12 months or more out of the ring, they will often need a fight to knock off the rust and get back to the level they were at. For some who would have been on the cusp of a big fight, like a European title fight, they may find that opportunity has gone and they're back down the ladder."

McAuley helps run the family hotel business in Larne, The Halfway House, so he is well aware of the impact the pandemic is having on the business community, particularly those within the hospitality industry.

The 58-year-old is confident that his business will return as strong as ever but has deep concerns for many of his counterparts.

"I still can't quite believe that the world has been brought to a standstill - I don't know when the hospitality business will be back to normal. It could easily be 2021, just like the world of boxing. I fear that some will not return because the impact has been too severe," added McAuley.

"The government has helped workers with the furlough scheme but those who own hotels and restaurants are not receiving anything which I don't understand because they need to get a living as well.

"I've managed to keep busy, doing bits and pieces around the hotel with my wife… I even painted the place from top to bottom.

"Hopefully we never have to experience this in our lives again and I really hope that the whole world gets behind the Americans who have filed a lawsuit against China because they should be made to pay up billions for the mayhem this pandemic has caused."

Meanwhile, the British Board also said in their statement yesterday that should shows go ahead they will be starting with only five fights on each bill.

There is no guarantee that shows will start in July as the BBBofC stated they were "hopeful" of such a restricted return.

The announcement also stated: "Initially, it is unlikely that crowds attending promotions will be permitted. In that situation the emphasis will be on minimal numbers of officials, licence holders, members of the promoter's team and broadcasting personnel to facilitate a tournament that meets all BBBofC safety requirements."

Belfast Telegraph