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Dillian Whyte vs Alexander Povetkin could be first big fight behind closed doors

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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Promoter Eddie Hearn has revealed plans to stage “two or three” Saturday fight nights in July to test the waters before returning with a bigger show behind closed doors that could feature British heavyweight Dillian Whyte’s clash with Russian veteran Alexander Povetkin.

Whyte was scheduled to face Povetkin in Manchester on May 2 before the bout was scuppered due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

“When Whyte knocks out Povetkin, stands on the turnbuckle and there’s six people watching, it will be weird,” Hearn told BBC Sport.

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“But I want people to tune in and say ‘wow’.”

Hearn admits it will be difficult for boxers to get up for a bout when fighting without a live audience.

“When Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline is playing and you opens the curtain and see 20,000 people screaming, it’s quite easy to peak if you’re a good fighter. But doing that behind closed doors is going to be a different kind of challenge,” he said.

“I don’t see how boxing in a studio does anything for the sport. It’s four walls in a dark environment with no character or personality.

“I want to build a fight camp, a different kind of environment, more dramatic. It will look spectacular on TV. We need to dramatise it.

“It’s about taking over a hotel, testing all the teams, creating a sterile fight camp where no-one goes in until we know they’ve had a negative test. It’s about creating changing room areas, ring walks. It will add to the story.”

Hearn says his company Matchroom Boxing is uniquely placed to ride out the storm while smaller promoters and other sports will likely struggle in the current climate.

“We’ve lost money for a number of shows but we run a proper business, we have resources and funds so can ride a wave like this whilst others can’t,” he said. “We have had the momentum [that] other sports don’t have.

“Like in business, if your sport was struggling before this, then you’re in dire straits. This is going to badly affect and demolish certain sports.”

Hearn added he fears for the mental wellbeing of some boxers who aren’t used to being away from the gym for prolonged periods.

“There have been a few fighters who have really struggled mentally, some that already had problems coming into this,” he said.

“Boxing has saved a lot of these fighters from going down a bad path, and now the sport has been taken away from them. They need to be in their environment; being in a gym, with their team, with that discipline and regimented training.”

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