After initially planning to go through with boxing cards on Saturday and Tuesday nights in New York but without spectators, Top Rank on Thursday night canceled both events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, citing a lack of access to tests.
"We were going to be guided by the recommendation of the athlete commission," said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who remained at home in Las Vegas rather than fly to New York for the cards. "And they consulted their medical people and were advised not to go through with these events because there is no way to adequately test the fighters. It's as simple as that. It's a failure to provide the proper testing for this virus in-country. If we could test the fighters and one or two tested positive then we would eliminate their fights, same with the referee. But without testing we are operating in the dark."
Both cards were scheduled to take place at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Featherweight world titleholder Shakur Stevenson was slated to make his first defense against Miguel Marriaga in the main event Friday night on ESPN, and the fighters on the card and company officials appeared Thursday afternoon at a news conference at the Garden to promote a card that was called off hours later. On Tuesday, popular Irish featherweight Michael Conlan was due to headline on ESPN+ in his fourth consecutive St. Patrick's Day show by taking on Belmar Preciado in a 10-rounder.
"The people I am most sorry about are the fighters because they work so hard to get ready. They put in the time and sweat and they come out with nothing," Arum said. "That's something that we should all blame the president of the United States for and his administration because they didn't prepare us for this pandemic when they had all the advance notice when the first cases started coming out of China."
The Top Rank cards being called off made it at least 15 boxing shows that were either postponed or canceled in North America this week due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Arum had said earlier Thursday that he thought it was a good compromise to have the shows go on without putting spectators at risk while allowing the boxers to earn their purses and not to let their training go to waste while fans could still watch the broadcasts.
"After close consultation with the New York State Athletic Commission, it has been determined that Saturday's and Tuesday's events cannot proceed in light of the ongoing coronavirus crisis," Top Rank said in a statement. "Top Rank will work with the commission to reschedule the events as soon as it is safe for all involved. The health and safety of the fighters and their teams, and everyone involved in the promotion of these events necessitated taking this step.
"We thank everyone for their understanding, and we will continue to work with our broadcast/venue partners and state and local officials to decide when the time is right to return."