The ‘sweet science’ of boxing looking into spit science

The head of the British Boxing Board of Control said Wednesday the body was working on an “apparatus” that would allow fighters to safely spit out water as they catch their breath between rounds. It’s among dozens of protective measures under discussion.

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James DeGale of England takes some water during a workout in a 2017 file photo. The head of the British Boxing Board of Control said Wednesday May 6, 2020, the body was working on an “apparatus” that would allow fighters to safely spit out water as they catch their breath between rounds.

James DeGale of England takes some water during a workout in a 2017 file photo. The head of the British Boxing Board of Control said Wednesday May 6, 2020, the body was working on an “apparatus” that would allow fighters to safely spit out water as they catch their breath between rounds.

Kathy Willens/AP

The “sweet science” may adopt a bit of spit science under a plan to protect itself from the coronavirus when boxing resumes in Britain, possibly in July.

The head of the British Boxing Board of Control said Wednesday the body was working on an “apparatus” that would allow fighters to safely spit out water as they catch their breath between rounds. It’s among dozens of protective measures under discussion.

Fighters would have to wear a face mask until inside the ring, while trainers and the referee would wear masks throughout bouts. No fans would be allowed. Testing protocols would be in place.

The five-page plan distributed to British promoters drew immediate attention for one line in particular: “No spitting from Boxers when in corners.” However, BBBofC general secretary Robert W. Smith told The Associated Press that it’s more nuanced.

“We’re working on apparatus in the corner where a boxer can refresh themselves in a safe and clean-as-possible way,” Smith said. “They’ll be able to refresh themselves with water and obviously gargle ... and dispense with that water in as clean-as-possible way. An apparatus to do that will hopefully be in place. We’ll have to have something that’s closed.”

The apparatus could include a version of the traditional spit bucket, he said, but one that is fully enclosed.

The coronavirus pandemic stopped sports around the world in March and has been responsible for more than 29,000 deaths in Britain. Restarting won’t be easy, as soccer’s Premier League is learning. Government restrictions will also dictate how and when sporting events can resume.

Smith referred to the plan as a “consultation document” and said it is flexible. Initially, there would be no championship bouts, Smith said, because they require more personnel.

“If procedures are working well, we bring in the championships,” he said. “The whole thing is up for discussion.”

Smith said he had conversations Wednesday with prominent promoters Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren.

“We’re all positive that we can get it done. Couple of things were discussed. We seem to be singing from the same song sheet,” Smith said.

Hearn and Warren did not return messages seeking comment.

Anthony Joshua’s fight against Kubrat Pulev scheduled for June 20 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was postponed and is awaiting a new date. WBC interim heavyweight champion Dillian Whyte is scheduled to fight Alexander Povetkin on July 4 at Manchester Arena.

The BBBofC plan would also prohibit from events anyone with a fever or flu-like symptoms, those with serious medical conditions, pregnant women, anyone who is “seriously overweight,” as well as anyone over 70, regardless of health.

Everyone entering events will have been tested, and will be required to bring their test result to the venue.

Steve Wraith, a promoter in northeastern England, said he supports the plan in general but thinks they can reduce a few measures.

“I don’t see the reason for wearing the mask coming into the ring,” Wraith said. “Some of these measures will be more visual for the watching (television) crowds rather than being practical.”

The July timetable is definitely flexible, Smith said.

“It depends what is said on Sunday from the government, if we’re on lockdown a further period of time,” Smith said. “It may end up in August, it may end up in September. We’re not over this crisis yet.”

Smith said he will “fully respect” if boxers choose not to participate, whether because of lower potential winnings or for health concerns.

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