Freeman Cebu Sports

Bubble Boxing

BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro - The Freeman

With the NBA playoffs kicking off this week and the bubble basketball gimmick going well so far, can the bubble set-up click here in the Philippines? The first event that will go for it is the Chooks to Go Pilipinas 3X3 league, but I’d like to get closer to home and dare say that Cebu is a candidate to stage a bubble-type event too, but not in basketball. Boxing is it.

Let’s take a look at both and see how these can work. The Chooks to Go Pilipinas 3X3’s games will be played at the world-class Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna around September or October. All the players and officials of each team, along with league officials and the TV production crew will stay at the Inspire compound that includes a hotel. This has 32 dorm-type, 20 hotel-type and four executive rooms; a total of 56 rooms with 176 beds. But before they move in to the complex, testing will be conducted to ensure that everyone is safe. Once everyone is in the “bubble,” they won’t be allowed to leave until after the games are over.

The biggest advantage of 3X3 games is that you can finish a tournament or leg in two days. The entire delegation will thus be staying in the bubble anywhere between four to six days, including practice days for all. Testing will most likely be a regular thing for all, along with the implementation of strict health protocols such as wearing face shields, face masks and practicing social distancing. The complex will be booked exclusively for the event and no visitors or clients will be allowed to work out during these days. The same cycle will be repeated when the tournament stages more legs after the initial run. Cost will not be an issue with Chooks to Go as the main provider and each team taking care of its own members. On paper, everything looks good. I guess it’s just a matter of strictly practicing all the health protocols that they presented upon getting approval from the IATF. Just a thought. Can the PBA do something similar? Hmm.

This is where Cebu Boxing can step up to the plate, although in a different manner and not at the same level as that of Chooks to Go Pilipinas 3X3. Before anything else, costing and figures will be nowhere near the Inspire bubble that includes hotel-type accommodations and facilities. But it can be done. The basic infrastructure is actually in place. Remember that Cebu’s boxing stables have private gyms and dorm-type accommodations for their boxers. The Omega Boxing and ALA Boxing Gyms boast of world-class facilities for training and this includes a boxing ring or two, in the case of the ALA Gym. They also have quarters where their boxers stay. Both gyms are already bubbles by themselves even before this pandemic struck. The only difference is that boxers were allowed to come and go before. But today? They’re all “quarantined” except for those who went home to their respective hometowns.

We can thus have a boxing event held at the Omega or ALA “bubbles,” with the participating boxers and their trainers moving in to the venue two to three days before the event. They will all undergo testing and observe strict health protocols. In such a situation, will the officials, referees and judges also move in to the bubble? I’d say why not? This also includes the TV crew for the event. No spectators will be allowed in, not even the family members of the boxers or officials. I have to admit that I’m not aware at how ready these gyms are to host such an event. But I’ve seen both gyms and I don’t think any major repairs will have to be done except for a few tweaking in the accommodations department as visiting boxers and their trainers will be asked to stay there.

The tough part for local boxing is finding sponsors who can help foot the bill. I’m pretty sure that Omega (and Casino) will be willing to help out, but other sponsors will be needed. They can offer TV advertising spots via Facebook Live or YouTube with IPI providing the TV equipment. Another possible issue could be the lack of quality opponents for boxers. Cebu promoters usually tap opponents from outside Cebu, but travelling these days is a major concern. Promoters and match-makers will need to get an inventory of all boxers in Cebu and find a way to bring in the right opponents for their boxers. If it were an Omega-promoted event, the card would be an Omega vs. others spectacle. The same applies should ALA put up a fight card at their compound.

The other tough part is to work on the documents to get the event and its protocols approved by the IATF. The GAB has already mentioned that boxing has already been given the approval to resume training, depending on the quarantine levels of a city or town. The next logical thing to do is to get clearance for the next level of practice that includes sparring, i.e. physical contact. If that’s cleared, a boxing event can’t be too far away.

So how soon will we see Cebu stage a boxing card? I can already hear that clapper. Seconds out! Ding! Box!

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