PROFESSIONAL promoter Mark Neilson discusses the possibility of boxing’s return later this year in his fortnightly column.

I was reminded the other day that back in November, when the situation with this horrendous virus looked like it was under control, I said in an interview that small-hall boxing would hopefully return by March. March has arrived and it does seem that I’m stuck in the movie Groundhog Day as we still don’t have any guarantees of when local boxing will return.

That said, the positive news on vaccinations and the recently announced roadmap does give me some cause for hope.

Theoretically, indoor venues can allow crowds back up to 1,000 people - or 50 per cent - no earlier than May 17, followed by the removal of all limits no earlier than 21st June. In reality, having spoken to a few venues already, they’re either still closed or not ready.

With Swindon’s main venue, the Oasis Leisure Centre, currently closed and without a date of when, or indeed if, it will reopen, we have to cast our eye at other local venues.

MECA in Swindon’s town centre, although with half the capacity, is a great venue for small-hall boxing. With its art-deco ceiling and theatre style layout, it’s a throwback to the golden days of boxing and I’ve put on some cracking shows there, starting with the current owners’ first event nearly ten years ago.

We have investigated all kinds of venues locally, from hotel conference rooms (too small), to Swindon’s Link Centre (putting a cover over the ice and too cold!) through to the County Ground (too expensive).

Currently, we have booked shows in September and December at MECA and are hopeful that these will go ahead. All the boxers are itching to fight again and, with their careers on hold for the last year, they want to get into big fights as soon as possible. Let’s all cross our fingers that the light at the end of the tunnel we can see now continues to get closer.