Fights to resume in Nicaragua because ‘boxers have to eat’

MANAGUA, Nicaragua  — Boxing is set to resume in Nicaragua on Saturday with a televised eight-fight card in front of a live audience in Managua.

The threat of the coronavirus was dismissed by promoter Rosendo Álvarez, the former two-time world champion.

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FILE – In this March 3, 2001 file photo, Nicaragua’s Rosendo Alvarez celebrates his 12 round split decision over Colombia’s Beibis Mendoza in their light flyweight championship fight in Las Vegas. With nearly all the world’s sport shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, Nicaragua is hosting an event Saturday, April 25, 2020, with a full card of boxing matches before a live audience, organized by Alvarez, who — like the Central American nation’s government — waved aside the threat of COVID-19. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch, File)

“Here we don’t fear the coronavirus, and there is no quarantine. The three deaths (reported so far by the Ministry of Health) came from outside and nobody within the country has been contaminated,” said Álvarez, known as “El Búfalo.”

He said he signed up 16 local boxers for the card, which is being televised by ESPN Latinoamerica (from OOOO GMT), because “Nicaragua is a poor country and the boxers have to eat. They can’t stay shut up in their house.

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“This is the only gymnasium in the world that is open and active this Saturday.”

The government insists Nicaragua has been barely touched by COVID-19. The Ministry of Health reports only 11 positive cases and the three deaths. Meanwhile, in neighboring or nearby countries the regional Central American Integration System has reported roughly 13,000 cases and about 500 deaths.

The Nicaraguan baseball and soccer leagues are still playing, and Saturday’s local sports pages included stories on a triathlon and school wrestling tournaments. President Daniel Ortega recently ordered 1.8 million students back to school and 170,000 state employees back to work following a 15-day vacation.

This month alone, the government Tourism Institute promoted at least 81 mass events, including carnivals and parades. The government’s approach has prompted expressions of concern from the Pan American Health Organization and alarmed local experts.

“Popular celebrations, massive funerals, marches and similar activities increase the risk of multiple simultaneous outbreaks in the whole country,” warned epidemiologist Álvaro Ramírez. “I still don’t understand what the government is betting on.”

Álvarez said his organization will take some protective measures at the bouts. Spectators will be at least 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) from the ring, and medics will take their temperature when they enter. They also will have to wear masks.

Boxers also will have “a rigorous medical checkup,” he said, though without a test for the virus, because “none of them have symptoms nor have they gotten sick in training.”

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