UK boxing is back!
It has been four long months since the boxing world ground to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The last match on UK soil before the enforced break happened on 14 March, but as of July we are finally back to being able to enjoy the best sport on the planet.
Having said all of that, the world of boxing in the UK has changed almost beyond recognition, and it will not automatically return at the highest level.
Huge efforts have been made that mean safety and hygiene is absolutely paramount throughout the whole build-up to a fight and the fight itself.
Following guidance from the Government means many adaptations – with one of the most obvious being the lack of boxing fans at venues, as matches are held behind closed doors to restrict any spread of Covid-19.
Also banned is anyone over 70, people with certain health conditions, and those who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the previous 14 days. For now, entourages are also a thing of the past.
Multiple safety procedures have additionally been put in place by the British Boxing Board of Control.
For a start, there is a maximum of five fights per show allowed, in comparison to the usual 12 or 14 bouts.
Fighters, officials, staff and media attending a fight must enter a bubble by staying isolated in a hotel before the bout.
Seven working days prior to a contest, the BBBofC should be made aware of names and exact numbers of attendees.
Regular testing for boxers, officials and other personnel during the build-up to fights is absolutely key. Those involved are being constantly checked by medical teams, with tests in training, on the week of the fight and at the weigh-in. The final hurdle to overcome is a temperature check on the day of the fight.
At the venue, rigorous cleaning regimes are in place, with the requirement for the place to be spotless to a medical grade standard.
Social distancing must be possible at all times, whether that be in the dressing rooms or the television commentary area.
Separate designated areas for putting on and taking off Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must have handwashing facilities, touch free paper towel dispensers, hand sanitiser, disposable latex free gloves, universal wipes and foot pedal operated clinical waste bins.
Ringside, hand sanitiser facilities must be available and licence holders in the corners must not share the boxers water bottle or towel.
Before and after the fight, only the boxers, one trainer, the referee and medical officers are allowed into the ring.
Any medics at ringside must wear full PPE – meaning an FFP3 mask, fluid repellent overall suits, latex free disposable gloves, and full-face visor.
The previously innocent spittoon bucket is subject to various protocols including the outside being cleaned with bleach during the round, by a person wearing fluid resistant surgical face masks – Type IIR certified, eye protection, and a long sleeve disposable fluid repellent gown.
A minimum of 20 minutes between contests is being enforced to ensure there is enough time for the ring canvas, steps to ring, ropes and corners to be cleaned to medical standards – plus allow those who need to, to change their PPE in a safe and unrushed manner.
As boxing journalist Alan Hubbard said: “Phew! What a palaver! And a costly one at that… At least it should ensure good clean (very clean) fights!”