Making the Rounds: Golden Boy moving ahead amid coronavirus surge; Miller needs lifetime ban

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Yahoo Sports
A weekly look at boxing's hottest topics.
A weekly look at boxing's hottest topics.

Golden Boy returns with Ortiz vs. Vargas

Golden Boy president Eric Gomez said Tuesday that he hopes the recent surge in coronavirus cases in California won’t impact the company’s planned return on July 24, when welterweight Vergil Ortiz is scheduled to fight Samuel Vargas at Fantasy Springs in Indio.

But Gomez admits that the situation is up in the air.

Gomez told Yahoo Sports that the company has lost in excess of $1 million since the pause in boxing because of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in March.

“Luckily, we haven’t had to furlough or lay anybody off, and I’m proud of that,” Gomez said. “But if this continues, we might have to do that. We’ve adjusted as best we can. We all took pay cuts, starting with me and all the way down. We’re doing whatever it takes to not get hurt.”

Gomez said Golden Boy has paid close attention to what Top Rank, which began doing shows in June, and the UFC have done while staging fights during the pandemic.

The shows in California that Golden Boy promotes will be the first in the state since the lockdown. Gomez said Golden Boy has already been testing fighters for COVID-19 during training camp, and has a couple of backups training in case they’re needed.

“These are crazy and unprecedented times but as of right now, our plan is to go forward,” Gomez said. “California has given us guidelines and protocols to follow, and they’re very extensive. We’re following those, but we’re trying to go beyond even to make things as safe and secure as we can.

“We’ve learned a lot from what Top Rank has done with fights falling out and what not. We’ve tested pretty much all of our fighters in camp, multiple times. We’re telling them to take their temperatures every day and to wear a mask and to wash their hands as often as possible and to observe the social distancing guidelines. The thing is, we’re trying to anticipate everything, but you know this is something we can’t predict. It’s a nasty virus and we’re just trying to be cautious and do the best we can.”

(L-R) Bernard Hopkins, Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya pose as they attend the official weigh-in for Canelo Alvarez vs. Sergey Kovalev at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Nov. 1, 2019 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(L-R) Bernard Hopkins, Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya pose as they attend the official weigh-in for Canelo Alvarez vs. Sergey Kovalev at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Nov. 1, 2019 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Gomez said he saw Ortiz, one of the sport’s rising stars, train last week and said he’s impressed. Ortiz has fallen slightly behind schedule because of the lockdown, Gomez said, but is looking good in training.

He said Vargas will be the toughest opponent Ortiz has faced to date.

“This is a tough veteran guy but this is a big fight in his development,” Gomez said. “It’s a step-up fight for him. He’s one of our young guys and future champions. I really believe he’s going to be a future star, but this is the kind of fight you have to win in order to take that next step.”

Update on Canelo

Gomez said he has a meeting scheduled with Canelo Alvarez, the promotion’s No. 1 star, about a potential fight without fans in September.  He said he’s put together a plan that he’ll present and then it will be up to Alvarez to determine what he wants to do.

Gomez said Alvarez has indicated he wants to fight at super middleweight in his next outing.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to lure any of the champions and a [Gennadiy] Golovkin fight can’t happen now because of this,” Gomez said. “That’s a fight we were hoping to do. I don’t think we’ll be able to get those super middleweight champions, but there are still some good guys out there I think we’ll be able to get.

“We’re going to show Canelo everything. He’s concerned about how things go with all the guidelines, so we’ll lay everything out for him and let him make his call.”

RIP Rusito Gonzalez

Alejandro “Rusito” Gonzalez, a 21-year-old super lightweight from Mexico with a 15-0 record and 11 KOs, died of cancer on Monday. He was only 21.

Gonzalez had cancer of the lymph nodes, and it spread to his groin.

Deepest condolences to his friends and family.

Miller tests positive for PEDs

One-time heavyweight contender Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller’s most recent positive PED test, after he essentially got off the hook for positive tests for the same substance in New York last year, underscores one of the major issues confronting boxing:

The lack of a coherent and consistent drug testing policy.

Boxing is a dangerous enough sport when everything goes perfectly that it should be a requirement that every fighter who competes in the U.S. must submit to 24-7-365 drug testing as currently exists in the UFC. 

There have been far too many deaths in the ring throughout boxing history, but fortunately, none have proven to have been at the hands of a fighter who was jacked on performance enhancing drugs. For the sport to survive, that can’t be allowed to occur.

Who will pay for it always remains the question, but all of the stakeholders in the sport need to find a solution to the problem.

Imagine if Miller hadn’t been caught by the Nevada Athletic Commission and had been allowed to fight Jerry “Slugger” Forrest on July 9, as scheduled. And imagine that PED-aided Miller seriously injured Forrest, or worse.

There would be calls, with merit at that point, to discontinue the sport.

The sport’s fans also have an obligation in this. Regardless of how long Miller is sanctioned for, he cannot be allowed to fight again. If a promoter tries to or does sign him, fans and media need to scream bloody murder.

Fans need to boycott that promoter’s fights, as well as its sponsors and its television partner.

Let’s be honest here: It was a head scratching move when Top Rank signed Miller following his 2019 positive tests. It’s not as if that were a one-off; he’d tested positive in his kickboxing career and his massive barrel-chested build would have enabled him to fit in perfectly with the WWE during its notorious Steroid Era.

A little investigation would have shown that Miller was no innocent victim. Top Rank’s decision to sign him in the first place was bizarre.

But this can’t be allowed to happen again. If he gets less than a lifetime ban — and if I had to bet, I bet that’s what will occur — fans have to make sure promoters, television executives and sponsors know just what will happen.

Miller does not belong in a sport in which a punch to the head can prove fatal, not when he’s shown to be so reckless and untrustworthy. 

It would be beyond reckless for any promoter to sign him if/when he’s served time for his current mess.

You have the power to help make sure it doesn’t happen.

He said it

“You’re seeing a little bit of boxing back right now [but] the content is not good enough. And you’re seeing that being reflected in the ratings. You know, Top Rank and ESPN shows are running non-competitive fights and a lot of the times with fighters that don’t have significant profiles. You’ve only got to look at the ratings that are being produced by ESPN and Top Rank. It’s horrible for the sport. It’s giving people an excuse to say, ‘Boxing is dead.’ Boxing’s not dead when you get the product right. And when we come back, we’ve gotta make sure we get the product right.” — Promoter Eddie Hearn on DAZN’s “Ak & Barak Show,” about the Top Rank ratings on ESPN.

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