Did IATF overlook boxing?
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 9, 2020 - 12:00am

There is a cloud of doubt whether the IATF approved the restart of pro boxing under GCQ during a video conference that involved GAB chairman Baham Mitra last week. According to Mitra, Secretaries Eduardo Año and Silvestre Bello seemed to favor the reopening of pro boxing because of the livelihood predicament of fighters who aren’t paid unless they perform in the ring. It’s a different situation with amateur fighters under ABAP since they receive monthly allowances from the PSC if in the national pool.

Mitra admitted that in a meeting with the IATF Technical Working Group (TWG) chaired by Undersecretary Brigido Dulay the day before the IATF video conference, pro boxing was excluded from the restart of pro sports. Apparently, there was an objection by the DOH representative in the TWG to give the green light to pro boxing.

What was presented to the IATF was the version approved by the TWG detailing the “PSC-GAB-DOH joint administrative guidelines on the conduct of health-enhancing physical activities and sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The guidelines mentioned that under GCQ and MGCQ, “only professional contact sports conducted abroad are allowed,” meaning no go signal for the resumption of pro boxing domestically. Pro basketball and pro football athletes, under GAB supervision, were allowed to restart training on a limited and controlled basis under GCQ.

While pro boxing was not included in the TWG-approved version, Mitra was encouraged when Año asked about it. Mitra said Año mentioned if pro boxers test negative and safety protocols are in place, why deprive them of their livelihood? Bello, whose orientation is labor-related, noted that in the case of pro boxers, it’s no work, no pay. It appeared to Mitra that the drift of the discussion favored the reopening of pro boxing.

Secretary Karlo Nograles presided in the discussion on pro boxing until Secretary Francisco Duque arrived to take over. There was no further discussion on pro boxing when Duque presided and the IATF proceeded to approve the TWG guidelines. Mitra said it’s possible Duque wasn’t briefed on the discussion on pro boxing.

“When Malacañang announced the IATF decision to restart limited training for athletes in pro basketball and pro football, there was no mention of pro boxing,” said Mitra. “So I requested for a transcript of the video conference and the minutes. I hope the IATF considers to reopen pro boxing because we’re prepared to employ the strict health and safety standards now being used in getting pro boxing back in Las Vegas. Our appeal is in behalf of our pro boxers who need to fight to be able to provide for their families.” In the TWG guidelines, contact sports in the pros will be allowed provided that minimum public health standards are met under No CQ.

Mitra said 3x3 basketball, which is not under GAB supervision because of its amateur status, was also given the go-signal by the IATF because it was included in the presentation. He said 3x3 commissioner Eric Altamirano plans to license 3x3 players as pros because of the benefits of being under GAB supervision. If 3x3 players are listed as pros, they may still enter the PBA draft but will no longer be considered rookies.

Mitra said he has invited the MPBL, PVL and PSL to turn pro so they could be covered by the IATF decision. But the three leagues are hesitant because it will mean closing their doors to collegiate players. Unless the IATF reconsiders, only non-contact sports and activities on a non-pro level are allowed under GCQ, MGCQ and No CQ. Basketball is considered a contact sport. Biking, golf, swimming, badminton, equestrian and skateboarding are classified as non-contact sports. 

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said the pro league will restart training as a first step and if there are no hitches in the graduated build-up from five to 10 to 20 participants, the next stride may be to request the IATF to allow playing actual games to resume the season.

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