Boxing matches resume after lockdown, but audiences stay home

Boxing matches resume after lockdown, but audiences stay home

Muaythai boxers fight in front of empty spectator seats behind closed doors due to the spread of the coronavirus disease at Siam Boxing Stadium in Samut Sakhon on Saturday. (Reuters photo)
Muaythai boxers fight in front of empty spectator seats behind closed doors due to the spread of the coronavirus disease at Siam Boxing Stadium in Samut Sakhon on Saturday. (Reuters photo)

Boxing matches resumed on Saturday after more than three months as the nation eases its coronavirus lockdown, but fans of the popular sport will have to make do with watching on television for now.

Leaders of the sport hailed the return to the ring after the shutdown, which left hundreds of boxers and referees without work, and said they hoped spectators would be allowed to attend matches again soon.

"I'm very happy and excited to get back to the ring ... But I feel a bit strange. I was used to the sounds of crowds cheering, but there's no audience," said Khathawut Tumthong, a 21-year-old boxer.

The government has eased most curbs to try to revive an economy badly hit by the pandemic, with sports competitions among the latest activities to resume. No local transmissions of the virus have been reported for 40 days.

However, authorities have yet to issue rules on when and how audiences will be allowed at sports venues. In March, a spike in virus cases was linked to a boxing match at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium.

"Today is a good start for the boxing industry," said Viboon Jampa-nguern, head of the boxing committee.

"Boxers are in jeopardy, they don't have alternative jobs. The same goes for those who work as boxing referees, they don't have second jobs to support them," he said.

Thailand's tourism-driven economy could contract a record 8.1% this year, with the number of foreign tourists expected to tumble 80%, the Bank of Thailand has forecast.


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