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Boxing Will Be Allowed At Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center As Of Feb. 23

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There is light at the end of this tunnel, but sometimes it’s hard to see, because it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of anxiety, when you see a story about some horrific new variant of the coronavirus.

Vaccinations are occurring at a steadier pace than they were a month ago, and a change in leadership in DC means that fighting COVID is atop the list of things the new administration wants to succeed at.

But back to it being hard…It isn’t easy to look on that bright side when, say, you are a restaurant owner in NYC, and your business in the last year has fallen off a bloody cliff, while your landlord still wants the monthly fee for the space you rent, and the bank still wants that monthly mortgage chunk in their hands without fail.

I felt a twinge of optimism, a light sliver, if you will, when I heard that NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that stadiums and arenas, like the gloried Madison Square Garden, would be permitted to open their doors to paying patrons on Feb. 23.

So, boxing fans realized, MSG could host a card again, just like the good old days. Cuomo said that a building can allow up to 10,000 fans to watch entertainment. That means that over at Barclays Center, people can pay to enter, and watch the Brooklyn Nets face the Sacramento Kings live on the 23rd.

Standards and practices put together by the NFL Buffalo Bills will serve as the model in order to insure that as much as possible, people can know that the atmosphere will be clean and safe.

“While we continue to fight COVID on multiple fronts, we must also get this economy re-opened intelligently and in a balanced way,” Governor Cuomo said. “Live sports and entertainment have long been engrained in the fabric of New York and the inability to hold events has only added to the isolation we have all felt at the hands of this virus. Thankfully, our pilot program to reopen Buffalo Bills games to fans was an unparalleled success and now we are taking that model and expanding it to other large venues across the state to not only reinvigorate local economies, but also help bring some fun and joy back into people’s lives as safely as possible.”

I talked to someone at Madison Square Garden, to see where they stand on getting boxing back in the building. “We are analyzing,” I was told. I asked Top Rank boss Bob Arum where he stood on it–would he bring boxing back in February, or March, or would he wait? “June,” the 89 year old deal-maker stated. He’s talked about having Teofimo Lopez’ first fight after beating Vasiliy Lomachenko in MSG, and mused aloud how anticipated a fight involving light heavyweight Joe Smith against an Artur Beterbiev would be in the Garden.

I asked Tim Smith, a spokesman for Haymon Boxing, whether there are plans in motion to bring Premier Boxing Champions fights back to Barclays, and Smith refused comment.

Previously, I’d spoken to a Barclays media relations staffer, and was told that they are indeed open to bringing boxing back into the building when authorities give the go ahead.

The Cuomo release did say that there would be a 10% capacity limit in any arena, which runs counter to the same release’s bullet point that up to 10,000 could enter as patrons.

Other regulations–an MSG or Barclays must “Ensure all staff and spectators receive a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the event,” and “Mandate face coverings, social distancing and temperature checks for all those in attendance.” The buildings also must meet the new filtration standards the state has fashioned for most spaces where large amounts of strangers might gather.

I also checked in with Bruce Silverglade, of the famed and fabled Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY, which has been a success story in their handling of keeping the gym humming while adhering to safety standards. His take served as a helpful influencer on me, because he made me think about the ramifications for those that haven’t yet moved into the top tier tax bracket. “I am happy that the Governor and The State of New York will allow venues with 10,000 seats or more to begin having events,” Silverglade told me. “There will be a number of protocols to ensure the safety of everyone attending. This is a start. However, once again, the people that have money are allowed to make money. The small promoters still cannot put on events, whether it is sports or some other form of entertainment.”

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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