Coronavirus crisis: 'A challenging time' - Warren

Luke G. Williams
21/03/2020 8:47pm

Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Earlier this week, Boxing Monthly's Luke G. Williams caught up with promoter Frank Warren, who gave his take on the Coronavirus crisis and how boxing is being affected...

When Boxing Monthly spoke with Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren on Wednesday afternoon, the Coronavirus crisis was escalating but British schools were still open, as were pubs, clubs and restaurants.

It's a measure of how fast the structure of our society - which we have so long taken for granted - is shifting beneath us that just four days later life already seems very different.

Where it will all end we don't yet know, but Warren's level-headed attitude proves a welcome and sensible salve for the troubled times that currently envelop us.

If keep calm and carry on is the British mantra, then Warren is the epitome of Britishness.

"I'm hanging in there mate, how are you?" he begins when our call connects, before reflecting on the unique challenges the Covid-19 pandemic is causing to practitioners of the noble art.

"The unique thing about boxing is none of the participants are on salaries. It's not like they are going to get wages or whatever. The guys at the top earn good money and can hopefully get through it but those who fight on undercards, like much of the rest of the population, will find it hard to support their families. They're going to struggle.

"From our perspective as promoters we’re in the same boat. We don't get any subsidies. We put our own money on the line and gamble that we will do well with our shows. Now we’re at a standstill.

"But we are where we are. Everybody in the country is affected and we’ve just got to get on with it."

Warren argues that the role of the British Boxing Board of Control will be crucial in the coming weeks and months.

"All I would ask is that the Boxing Board of Control don’t make any arbitrary decisions but they make sure that they consult with their licence holders," he explain. "I’ve said to [general secretary] Robert [Smith] that I think we should review the situation in a couple of weeks. It's such a moving target, none of us know what’s going to happen.

"We’ve got shows in June, but there’s no need to make a decision on those yet. No one’s buying tickets but we can still leave it a couple of weeks. Please God the situation will improve or at least we will get over the hump of it and get everything back on track. Our livings depend on it."

"Right now we’ve stopped everything. We've rescheduled Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce for 11 July. We’re hoping things are going to be ok for then. Tickets are valid for then or people can get a refund. We were about to announce Carl Frampton and Jamel Herring for Belfast. We haven’t announced it yet, we’re going to wait a couple of weeks and see what happens.

"Our show in Scotland in Glasgow we postponed because Nicola Sturgeon said there are no mass gatherings over 500, so we're looking for a new date for that one. Our show at York Hall we’ve postponed. Basically we’re pushing everything back. We don't know what's happening, we just have to see how the dust settles and then make arrangements. We can’t claim insurance for anything. We are where we are."

In common with many businesses across the country, Warren's Queensbury Promotions are adjusting to its workforce being based at home.

"Yesterday we said people could work from home or the office. A skeleton staff popped in today to look at the mail and so on. But we’ll be working from home now, using telephone conference calls and video calls if we need to do them. What we want to make sure is that everyone who works for us is ok - their health is paramount to us."

When asked to assess his level of frustration out of ten, Warren quips: "15 or 20! It's frustrating because in boxing we're used to dealing with problems where you have to find an answer. But with this there is no answer expect for the scientists to find something to do something about this virus. It’s very surreal.

"At the end of the day no one really cares if I’m running or not running a boxing show. People are losing their jobs. People are being laid off and may not get their jobs back. Some people are far, far worse off than us. Even if we could put shows on people might not have the money to buy tickets, It's a real sad time for everyone. It’s a really sad challenging time for us all.

"I’m old enough to remember the real hard winter of 1963. Then everything shut down for three months - there was no football, no schools. So things like this happen. We have to deal with the situation with a calm, rational mind rather than kneejerk reactions and saying something for the sake of saying something."