Professional boxing makes its long-awaited return to Wales tonight – one year, six months and 11 days after the last punch was thrown on Welsh soil.

Cardiff’s Vale Sports Arena, the venue for that show on March 14, 2020, which took place just before the first Covid-19 lockdown, also hosts the comeback.

This weekend’s event is a Mo Prior promotion, as it was 560 days ago, while the bill features two Welshmen, Craig Woodruff and Jay Munn, who were both there last spring.

The sold out show in the capital has a bill which also includes Welsh fighters Kieran Gething, Angelo Dragone, Jason Sillett and debutants Ben Crocker and Kyran Jones.

For Vale Sports Arena co-owners Peter Griffiths and Catherine Sharp, tonight has been a long time coming, with coronavirus hitting their business hard.

So eager to try and make-up for lost time, the duo have two more boxing shows lined up before the end of the year.

“We’re massively excited to host boxing again,” said Griffiths. “We’re used to holding big events and we’ve worked closely with the British Boxing Board of Control because of Covid.

“We’ve done a lot to ensure the fighters are safe, the judges and other officials are safe, and our staff and guests are safe.

“It’s great to be back but we’ve got to be sensible and make sure everyone feels safe.

“There will be temperature checks for everyone when they come into the venue, and that’s something people need to be aware of.

“We’ve increased the bars from four to 12 and put more toilets in so people don’t have to be too close to each other.”

He added: “Covid was a nightmare for us. We had a massive gym in the back of the venue and had to sell it to stay afloat.

“Since the restrictions were relaxed we’ve been able to host events with Ricky Hatton, Frank Bruno and Tony Bellew, and we’ve got Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Kevin Keegan coming up.

“We’ve got a lot more events planned for next year when, hopefully, Covid will be gone.”

Prior has staged shows in Wales since 2013, and this one’s thrown up more challenges than most.

A Celtic title fight was supposed to be the headline act in the capital until Woodruff’s scheduled opponent, Irishman Joe Fitzpatrick, tested positive for Covid.

Woodruff will now take on unbeaten Frenchman Faycal Rezkallah in an international contest which, if he wins, could put the Welshman in prime position for a shot at the British crown.

“I held the last show in Wales and I’m doing the first one back,” said London-based Prior.

“I’ve loved my time in Wales and have made lots of good friends, and I want to keep putting on shows there.

“A lot of shows across the country are having to be cancelled because of a lack of opponents and we’ve had a few problems too.

“Tickets have gone really well so we’ve been working really hard to make it a quality show.”

For Luke Pearce, who trains Woodruff, the clash with Rezkallah is a huge fight for the Newport lightweight given his dream of bringing the Lonsdale Belt to Wales.

With Maxi Hughes surrendering the British title to go for world honours, it seems that two out of Woodruff, fellow Welshman Gavin Gwynne and Myron Mills will get the first crack at the vacant strap.

“Covid has been tough on all boxers, especially in Wales because of the lack of shows,” said Pearce, nephew of former British heavyweight champion David ‘Bomber’ Pearce.

“When you’re not getting fights or opportunities, your head’s going to go down, but if Craig gets a win in this fight it puts him in a very strong position to fight for the vacant British title.

“We’ve put in the hard work and believe Craig belongs at that level. Craig is fighting an international opponent which would be great preparation for a title shot if he gets one.

“We’re doing this for Newport and we want to bring some sporting success back to the city.”

Pontypool super-lightweight Gething, who faces Manchester’s Josh Cook, will be “shaking off the rust” after being without a fight since November 2019.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I was supposed to be headlining the last show in Britain before Covid.

“That should have taken me on to bigger fights, so it’s good to be back and hopefully starting building towards something big again.”