Brad Rea – The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on professional boxing
Although professional boxers are able to train, spar and compete, the latter must be done without any fans in attendance. In addition, due to the current economic climate, sponsorship opportunities for boxers, particularly those still in the premature stages of their professional careers, have taken a hit. Continuing our series of interviews, MOQ Boxing reached out to undefeated middleweight, Brad Rea, to get his verdict on the landscape of the sport during these uncertain and challenging times.
- Please can you say a little bit about yourself and your career highlights so far?
As an amateur, I had close to one hundred fights before turning professional, having won multiple regional and national titles as well as representing England on numerous occasions. I am currently undefeated as a professional with a record of 9-0. I am trained by Blain Younis at Hatton’s gym in Hyde and managed and promoted by Steve Woods’ VIP Promotions.
The highlight of my pro career so far would definitely be getting to box at The Manchester Arena at my last fight on the Jono Carroll vs Scott Quigg undercard. It’s been a dream of mine since I was ten years old to box at the Arena and, although I boxed early on in the card and the venue wasn’t full, it was still nice to tick it off the list. Hopefully one day I’ll get to fight at The Manchester Arena when it’s full and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Ricky Hatton and Antony Crolla.
- How was training going before the lockdown came into force in March? When was your next fight set to be?
I was really lucky compared to most boxers as I managed to squeeze a fight in just before everything got shut down. I boxed on the Matchroom card at The Manchester Arena on 7th March, then just a few days later all upcoming shows got cancelled. I was happy to get out but also really disappointed as Hearn had promised me a slot on the Whyte vs Povetkin card back at the same arena four weeks later.
- What happened to yourself and your boxing gym when the lockdown was announced?
It was definitely a struggle. I don’t think I’ve been out of the gym for that long since I was eleven. I was training at home but, as most fighters will tell you, it’s really not the same. I had some weights so was staying on top of my strength programmes and getting runs in, but I missed punching and just generally having the crack and being in the gym with Blain, Ricky and all the lads.
- How have you been training recently?
Although I was itching to get back in the gym after being out for so long, it was a real shock to the system. It took me a few weeks to find my feet again, but I was just loving life. When I had lost some weight and gained a decent level of fitness back it felt good and we started to spar again. I’ve been training hard in case the phone rings for a fight before the end of the year but it’s not looking likely. The buzz of being back in the gym is slowly wearing off now and it’s hard to keep that drive with no fight date in sight. Hopefully something will come up for me soon.
- How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted you on a personal level? Have sponsoring opportunities been significantly affected?
It’s been really hard. Obviously small hall boxers don’t make massive amounts of money as it is. I train full time and rely on sponsorship to keep me going the majority of the time. My sponsors have been amazing and supported me as much as they can, but eventually a lot of that started dying down, which is completely understandable. It’s hard as we are all in the same boat really, everybody has been affected and taken a big hit. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my sponsors, so I am massively grateful for anyone who has helped me in any way on my journey so far.
- What are your current training plans and next steps? Are you managing to spar boxers from other gyms?
I’m training as usual during the week: two sessions a day and then having weekends off. With no upcoming fights and not having to worry about making weight and fight tactics etc., I’ve got a bit more time to work on a few different things that I’ve been looking to add to my game. Things seem to be working that me and Blain have been practicing on the pads and we’ve been getting it off in sparring which is always a positive. I’ve had plenty of sparring to be fair. We have decided that if it doesn’t look like I’ll be fighting this year then getting some tough rounds in won’t do me any harm. My first two spars back after lockdown were with Commonwealth light middleweight champion JJ Metcalf and British middleweight champion Liam Williams, which were great experiences for me.
- What do you think the biggest impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be on professional boxing?
I think it’s going to impact boxing massively in so many different ways, but the main thing is people are going to have to step up and fight other prospects a lot earlier. We’ve seen a lot of up and coming prospects lose on these Matchroom and Warren shows already as they’ve started being matched evenly and jumping into 50:50 fights.
- If you could change one thing in professional boxing right now, what would it be and why?
For me, the main thing would be to have one world champion in each weight. I don’t think getting rid of the titles would ever work now, but maybe somehow the WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF could all come together to create a title which is above the current four belts but still runs alongside them. I don’t know the ins and outs of how it works really; I try to ignore the political side of boxing, as hard as it is, and just focus on what I do inside the ring. But yes, definitely have one overall champion in each weight category.