Jose Ramirez and Viktor Postol will have to wait longer—and potentially look elsewhere—to settle their differences in the ring.
Concerns over the rapidly spreading coronavirus have forced event handlers to cancel the February 1 ESPN show that was to be held at Mission Hills Haikou in Haikou, China, two sources with knowledge of the development informed BoxingScene.com. The show was to be headlined by Ramirez’s mandatory title defense versus Ukraine’s Postol, but those plans are now on hold.
The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger was the first to report the show’s cancellation.
Concerns over the show going through first arose on Tuesday, when Chinese authorities issued a global alert of “human-to-human transmission” of the deadly coronavirus which was first detected in Wuhan, China last December. According to a recent report, at least nine people have died from the virus, with more than 440 more having been affected and hospitalized.
Studies of the virus conducted by renowned scientist Leo Poon have suggested that it “causes pneumonia and then doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment.”
The virus was first discovered among animals before they were transmitted to humans. A recent report from CNN International indicated that the virus has spread to other nations in Asia and possibly the United States as well.
It was enough to prompt Top Rank and ESPN to slam the brakes the show, with both sides forced to sit down and regroup.
Ramirez (25-0, 17KOs) was due to make his fourth overall title defense and first since becoming a unified champ following a 6th round knockout of Maurice Hooker in their battle of unbeaten titlists last July. The 27-year old native of Avenal, California was due to travel abroad on Thursday, as revealed during a recent media conference call to discuss the show.
Instead, he is forced to sit at home and await further instructions.
Postol (31-2, 12KOs) looks to become a two-time 140-pound titlist with his crack at Ramirez. The 36-year old Ukrainian held a version of the title for less than a year before conceding to Terence Crawford in their two-belt unification clash in July 2016. A loss to Josh Taylor—who holds two other belts and is eyeing an undisputed championship showdown versus Ramirez later this year—figured to knock him out of the mix, but two wins including a 10-round nod over Mohamed Mimoune last April landed him back in the title picture.
According to sources, a contingency plan is currently being sought as not allow training camps for all of the involved participants to go to waste. As this goes to publish, it remains unclear whether the date can be salvaged—which would mean finding another venue instantaneously—or if the rescheduling of at least the main event would depend on the availability of a date either on ESPN’s linear flagship network on its ESPN+ digital streaming platform.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox