With the UFC demonstrating that it can put on events during the coronavirus pandemic, it appears that boxing will be next in line to also hold fights without an audience in attendance.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum recently teased that he would soon be announcing "high-caliber" fights that would be held in empty arenas in Las Vegas and be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN+ as early as June.
According to The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger, that appears to be the case; he reported Wednesday that WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson will face Rafael Rivera on June 9. The fight would be broadcast on ESPN. A location has yet to be determined, although it will likely be in Las Vegas.
Shakur was originally slated to face Miguel Marriaga at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 14, but the COVID-19 outbreak caused the fight to be canceled the day before it was scheduled to take place.
"We hope to return June 9 with a slate of fights," a Top Rank spokesperson told DAZN News. "But major and minor details are still being worked out as it pertains to Top Rank’s upcoming schedule."
One of those details likely is the Nevada State Athletic Commission signing off on the fight. NSAC executive director Bob Bennett said in April that the commission would weigh its options after speaking with experts to determine whether an event can take place safely.
Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs) recently retweeted images on social media of him wrapping up a sparring session with welterweight contender Jaron Ennis, which would suggest the 22-year-old champion is staying in shape for when the call comes.
Rivera (27-4-2) dropped a decision to Leo Santa Cruz last May and has lost four of his last six fights.