JOE HAM appreciates he’s one of the fortunate ones. A new management deal signed recently with MTK Global – the same firm that looks after the affairs of Josh Taylor and Lee McGregor among others – ought to see the Glasgow super-bantamweight back in the ring either late this year or early in 2021. His dream of one day becoming British champion remains on course.

Ham, though, has been around Scottish boxing long enough to know the business is suffering badly because of the pandemic. While closed-doors events have seen the sport resume down south and in America, it is not a viable option here without the same broadcasting or sponsorship deals to prop them up.

Small-hall shows – in conference halls, hotels and leisure centres – lie at the very heart of Scottish boxing but, for as long as ticket-buying fans can’t attend, those venues will remain empty.

Given that these events are where most Scottish boxers get their first start in the professional game, the prospect of going at least a year without any competitive action ought to be a concern for anyone with a vested interest in the sport.

Ham’s father, Joe Ham Sr, trains his son as part of a team of boxers, all of them waiting for the opportunity to return to the ring. But they are not the only ones affected. Trainers, masseurs, announcers, ring girls, and staff at the venues themselves are also eager to hear when they can get back to work to help pay their bills.

Ham is looking forward to returning to action in the near future but fears other boxers might just throw in the towel for good.

“It’s been such a shame for the sport and not just the boxers – everyone has been affected by this,” he said. “Medical staff, promoters, bar staff in hotels and others have all been hit by it, too. People just see the fighters but there’s so much that has to happen for a show to go ahead.

“If you’re a bigger promoter you’ve got TV money that means you can put on shows with no fans but that’s not going to work here. We need fans for it to happen.

“A lot of boxers probably won’t come back after this. If they’ve not got other work then when they’re not fighting then they’re not getting paid. Normally you’d expect to be out every three months or so but we’ve had no shows in Scotland since February and I can’t see that changing until early next year at the earliest.

“And you’ve still got to pay for your annual medical which is £700 and that’s a lot of money. My last one has run out without me fighting and I’ll need to renew it next month.

“I’m lucky that Synergy Lifting Solutions, one of my sponsors, will probably cover it for me but not everyone has that behind them. With nothing coming in boxing-wise, a few fighters might decide to chuck it rather than pay that money.”

Ham hasn’t fought since November last year, a planned return in April falling by the wayside. He has kept himself ticking over in the hope that his new deal will expedite a return to the ring.

“I’m hoping signing with MTK will give me a better platform and open the door to a lot more opportunities,” he added.

“They’ve got 10 super-bantamweights on the books so those are easy fights to make. You don’t have the usual obstacles of dealing with different management teams. A few of the boxers have got titles as well so I should get some good fights out of this.

“Plus I know Josh will want to be boxing up here whenever he can so being with the same management team should help get me on those cards.

“I had a great relationship with Alex [Morrison, his former manager] and was with him for six years but sometimes you just need a wee change.

“If I don’t get a fight later this year then I’ll be looking to get out in either January or February. I’m in good shape and kept myself training all the way through. You never know when the phone is going to ring.”

The 29 year-old is a joiner to trade with City Building and is grateful for that steady income given all the uncertainty over boxing.

“We’ve been working right through the pandemic so it’s been busy,” he added. “But I still get away to train when I need to. City Building have been brilliant with me. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be able to do it all.”