In this corner with Russ Anber: 'We still don’t know what's to come'
Boxing's master of all trades Russ Anber reflects on the Coronavirus crisis, beginning with his own curtailed trip to New York for Michael Conlan's cancelled St Patrick's Day fight...
The world is changing so fast right now and it’s a worrying time.
I left Montreal on 10 March to fly to New York to work with Michael Conlan for his planned St Patrick’s Day fight against Belmar Preciado and for the Shakur Stevenson card on the coming Saturday.
At this point, no one seemed to be taking the Coronavirus thing too seriously. No one was worried. The fights were happening, everything seemed ok, normal.
Everyone arrived in New York for the fight as usual. I arrived in NYC on the Tuesday, the Conlans arrived on Wednesday. On Tuesday night, if I’m not mistaken, the NBA had made the announcement that they were shutting down the basketball league. Then the NHL also shut their season down.
On Wednesday, Top Rank made a decision and announced that both the Stevenson and Conlan fights would go ahead but behind closed doors, with no fans in attendance. That was understandable, although disappointing of course because part of the appeal of a fight card is the festive surroundings – the fans screaming and so on, especially for someone like Conlan who has such great support on St Patrick’s Day.
Things then moved very fast. On Thursday I was asked to work a corner for a fighter on the Saturday because his regular cutman wasn’t flying in any more. That meant I would be working that fight on Saturday and Conlan on Tuesday.
Just minutes later, while I was in the Top Rank office making sure I was on the accreditation list for the Saturday night card, the call came in from Carl Morretti with the news that everything was off. I went back to my room, booked my ticket to come back to Canada and flew back on the next day. I’ve been at home ever since.
I’ve been crazy busy though, working from home and working on the phone so much that I’m draining the juice on my battery and having to recharge halfway through the day. Then I’m on Skype trying to manage everything at our Rival offices around the world.
I’ve been isolating as much as I can for over two weeks now, just going out of the house twice in the two weeks to go to the grocery store.
Here all the gyms and so on closed very quickly on government orders but for a while in the US and the UK I was seeing footage of people in gyms on Instagram and stuff like that. What the hell were those people doing? The response in the US and UK in particular seemed very slow to me.
But things have gotten really serious. The governor has even closed Las Vegas for God’s sake, which shows how serious this all is. Vegas never closes!
Here the shelves are emptying, people are hoarding and so on. In the US people have been lining up to buy guns and so on. They’re arming themselves. It’s nuts, it's worrying. China seems to have got everything under control because they acted swiftly. They controlled it.
Here in Quebec the authorities have been really pro-active. It’s having a tragic effect on many people in and beyond boxing. My heart goes out to countries like Italy and Spain who have suffered the greatest losses of life. And we still don’t know what's to come.
We really don’t have our priorities in the right place if we are asking when the next fight will be, or if we are asking should there be fights behind closed doors. People are really suffering and this pandemic could cause economic and social turmoil for years to come.
Boxing and sport takes no precedence at a time like this compared to the ability of citizens to exist and function throughout the world. Countries are closing their borders. Little by little each day we are getting closer to a full lockdown.
Of course, I understand more than anybody the financial implications of what is happening. Here in Canada all gyms have been closed. Well, if gyms are closed who is my company Rival Boxing selling equipment to? Nobody.
I’m also not working any corners because if fighters don’t fight I’m not working and nobody is getting paid.
So of course everybody is hurting. But that’s even more reason why we should take this thing seriously and get it sorted because the longer it goes on the worse it's going to be, and the harder it’s going to be for us all to recover.
Russ Anber is on Twitter and Instagram @russanber.
Russ was speaking to Luke G. Williams