The International Boxing Hall of Fame Ceremony Is Another 2020 Casualty

For a moment in March, it seemed like combat sports might be among the few to continue amid the coronavirus pandemic. Once the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, however, circumstances changed. With athletes themselves at risk, empty stadiums weren’t enough. The effects of the pandemic now extend beyond the boxing ring. The International Boxing Hall of Fame will skip the 2020 ceremony altogether.

While a presentation likely could’ve been worked out — following social distancing protocols — the event would be unrecognizable compared to prior ceremonies. Did the Hall of Fame’s executive director make the right choice to delay the event?

How COVID-19 halted the boxing world

The boxing world, regardless of a locale or promotion, came to a screeching halt by mid-March, details ESPN. Two fighters in a ring, some crew to film, and some socially-distanced commentators were a distant possibility. But with gyms shut down and international fighters and trainers unable to travel, the necessary buildup to a fight became impossible.

Within a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic cut off the earning potential of every boxer and staff. Some sports found alternatives, like NASCAR luminaries moving to simulated, televised races. Boxers have no equivalent. The focus instead lands on coming up big in 2021.

Next year will cover a two-year span of International Boxing Hall of Fame inductions

Boxer Bernard Hopkins attends the Hublot x WBC "Night of Champions" Gala in 2019
Boxer Bernard Hopkins attends a 2019 gala | Roger Kisby/Getty Images for Hublot

The International Boxing Hall of Fame made it clear Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, and Juan Manuel Marquez would be the headliners of their 2020 festivities. But as the hype grew, the pandemic increasingly threatened the sports world. These fighters, who spent a lifetime earning a Hall of Fame spot, could’ve ended up accepting their honor at home.

While this might make for a good show at a time when sports programming is nearly non-existent, the ceremony itself would pale in comparison to past events. Instead, IBHF Executive Director Edward Brophy announced they’d save the 2020 inductees for a larger 2021 event, as CBS Sports details.

The event, previously scheduled for June 14 in Canastota, New York, has a televised ceremony on the day of. But normally it includes a full weekend of festivities, as many in the boxing world relish in the chance to carouse in person. Without that element, the event wouldn’t be the same.

The silver lining of delaying Hall of Fame festivities

The lack of a 2020 International Boxing Hall of Fame event means yet another void in an empty schedule for sports. Brophy spins the cancellation differently, however. In an ESPN interview, he said, “By honoring the two classes in a one-of-a-kind induction weekend, the Hall of Fame will be able to put all the winning combinations together for the inductees, fans and the entire sport of boxing.”

Brophy’s job, of course, is to spin any negative into a positive when he interacts with the press. But we think he’s on the right path. The return to sports — games, boxing matches, and associated awards shows — will be a triumphant, cathartic time.

The UFC and WWE are committed to empty-arena events with an eerie vibe. This may be a better time for sports commentary shows, re-airings of older games, and documentaries like the upcoming Michael Jordan retrospective to provide a better sense of comfort for fans. For live events, like the IBHF inductions, we might be better off having a bigger moment in the future than an undercooked one today.