Fights resume in Nicaragua because 'boxers have to eat'

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FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2004 file photo, two time former world boxing champion Rosendo Alvarez collects donations for a young cancer patient, in Managua, Nicaragua. 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/Esteban Felix, File)

MANAGUA – With the world pretty much devoid of sports events because of the coronavirus pandmeic, boxing resumed in Nicaragua on Saturday night with a televised eight-fight card in front of a live, though sparse audience in Managua.

Promoter Rosendo Álvarez, a former two-time world champion, had dismissed the threat of the virus,

“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,” Álvarez, known as “El Búfalo,” said before the event.

But his offer of free tickets appeared to fill only about a tenth of the 8,000 seats in the Alexis Argoello gym. Officials did not announce attendance figures.

The fights were broadcast by Nicaragua's state-owned Canal 6 and ESPN Latin America through its ESPN KnockOut program.

Alvarez said he signed up the 16 local boxers for the card because they needed to work.

“Nicaragua is a poor country and the boxers have to eat. They can’t stay shut up in their house," he said.

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.