Armin Van Damme’s voice quivered, and his eyes began to fill with tears.
His gym is closed. His livelihood is on hold. His passion postponed indefinitely by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our lives are completely upside down,” said Van Damme, who operates City Boxing Gym, which he closed last month. “I don’t know where to go from here.”
Las Vegas Valley boxing gyms aren’t just places where professionals go to hone their skills, spar or prepare for a fight. They foster a community, family atmosphere, where fighters of varying skill levels — from professional to amateur to recreational — go to focus. To improve. To find refuge, hope and salvation amid what for many already consider to be arduous personal circumstances.
“Some of these guys rely so much on the gym,” Van Damme said. “The guys, they’re devastated. Your whole life you work out and train hard to achieve a goal. … We’re all devastated.”
The coronavirus has forced the cancellation or postponement of several marquee fights — and the Olympics — and disrupted the routines of gym owners, trainers and fighters who bond over a love of boxing. As a result, fighters and trainers are altering their workouts and being creative to stay in shape as they wait out the pandemic.
WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney (24-0, 15 knockouts) still runs regularly and trains at home with members of his team. He’s still jumping rope in his garage, shadow boxing and hitting mitts, but noted that “everything is from home.”
“I try not to leave the house as much as possible,” said Haney, who recently recovered from shoulder surgery. “It’s crazy out here.”
IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant (20-0, 12 KOs) was training at City Boxing. He doesn’t have a fight scheduled, but said he’s maintaining his physical fitness by lifting weights at his home gym.
Veteran trainer Otis Pimpleton, who works out of Mayweather Boxing Club, said he’s been taking his fighters to the mountains three days a week to train.
“The main thing is to stay focused and adjust. … I don’t try to let my guys have too much down time,” Pimpleton said.
Former WBA super bantamweight champion Bones Adams owns Bones Adams Boxing. He closed the gym before the government mandated its shutdown.
“A lot of these guys were getting ready for fights or had fight dates and were getting ready,” Adams said. “When you have those dates, you’re set. All your heart goes into those. Your heart gets broken when it gets canceled. … There’s no positives from this.
“It’s going to take a really long time to get things back to normal.”