JAO group gives pro boxing, combat sports green light under MGCQ areas

In this file photo, Olympic-bound boxer Eumir Felix Marcial, left, throws a punch on his Malaysian foe in the 2019 SEA Games. The JAO group has given combat sports professionals to train and compete under strict health guidelines in areas with Modified General Community Quarantine status. (MB File Photo)

The Games and Amusements Board (GAB) announced Friday that the government has approved the training and competition of professional practitioners of boxing, muay thai, kickboxing and mixed martial arts subject to strict health guidelines in areas covered by the Modified General Community Quarantine.

This means that Metro Manila and outlying provinces under GCQ remain off limits for now.

GAB chairman Baham Mitra bared that the tripartite Joint Administrative Order (JAO), which includes GAB, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Department of Health, has approved the guidelines for these combat sports to resume activities.

“Several years from now, people will study what we did for the sports re-start,” Mitra told Manila Bulletin. “And we would want to hold our heads high and say we did it the right way without shortcuts.”

More than a hundred local boxers who have been active on the local scene were tremendously affected by the pandemic.

Last week, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) – through the initiatives of Sen. Bong Go and Mitra – distributed financial and relief assistance to more that 200 Filipino boxers last week.

These combat sports are the latest to be given a go signal by the government after professional basketball players in the PBA and footballers in the PFL were allowed to train early this week.

Through the guidance of the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), training and events for these spots are now allowed in areas under Modified General Community Quarantine, or MGCQ.

World boxing champions Manny Pacquiao, Jerwin Ancajas and John Riel Casimero all ply their waves abroad and so are not likely to benefit hugely from these loosened restrictions.

But local promoters and gym owners are, with a spike in boxing cards in provinces under MGCQ status expected.

Under the JAO guideline, individuals involved in these combat sports, including promoters, coaches and officials, are required to attend COVID-19 Basic Infection Control and Safety seminar, which is part of the event permit requirements.

The seminar is organized by GAB, and usually is given during the agency’s Kamustahan sa GAB weekly program. All licensed participants shall be required to attend the online seminar regarding COVID-19.

Other requirements include holding events for a maximum of five bouts, isolation of participants and swab testing.

At the venues, safety conditions are a must with well-ventilated arenas, provisions of the event quarantine/hotel facility the responsibility of promoters.

Also events will be held behind closed doors.

As specified in the JAO protocol, everyone in the area must adhere to strict social distancing, hand hygiene including regular use of alcohol or hand sanitizers, as well as use of 3-ply fluid-resistant surgical masks.

Inside the ring or cage (for MMA), the only persons allowed are competitors and a referee. Before and after the fight, a promoter, trainer (per participant) and medical official can be present.

Round girls and ring announcers are also fixtures of the past. Camera personnel are likewise not allowed in the corners of the ring or cage while fight commentaries are to take place remotely.