Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua still has an obligated title defense against IBF number one Challenger, Kubrat Pulev. And, on Monday his promoter reiterated that they are not inclined to have that fight in front of no fans due to the Coronavirus later this year.
Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn appeared Monday exclusively with Sky Sports TV in a video conversation to talk about the potential resumption of the sport later this year after it paused in mid-March due to the Covid-19 outbreak in all of Europe:
And when Hearn was asked specifically if Joshua’s title defense would be held without fans present, he responded,
Well, that’s something that doesn’t sit very well with me to be honest with you. Because at some point, we’re not going to have a choice. We’ve built boxing over the last 10 years on the basis of the mega- crowds, the atmosphere, the “Sweet Caroline” (U.K. fans singing in unison)…. but we have to bring the sport back. So, as much as it hurts me not to have fans there, we have no choice.”
For the bigger events, the iconic moments… I just can’t get comfortable with Anthony Joshua knocking out Kubrat Pulev and see him standing on the turnbuckle with eight Sky Sports cameraman sort of waving at him,” Hearn said with a sarcastic smile on his face.
He continued, “but there does come a time where we can’t afford his (Joshua) career to stall for too long. You know he last boxed in December. So, really, we’re kind of taking it on the chin that he may only box once this calendar year which is unfortunate but unavoidable.
If that’s the case, we’re not under as much pressure to say we must go in July. You must go in August.
So, if we have to go in September or October, then so be it. We want to give ourselves a chance for those kind of nights to return, in front of live crowds.”
Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) and Pulev of were to have fought June 20th at London’s Tottenham Hotspur stadium in front of over 65,000 fans in the WBA, WBO, and IBF title holder’s first fight, since he won his rematch on decision from American Andy Ruiz in December.
As Hearn said, is believed that Matchroom now would like to have the fight either in September or October, if not in England, then somewhere in Europe or elsewhere, that can have fans in attendance.
There has been speculation that Puelv (28-1, 14 KOs), who has been waiting since last fall for a title shot, would be paid money to “step aside” and let Joshua pursue a mega-fight with newly crowned WBC champ, Tyson Fury.
However, his manager, Ivaylo Gotzev of Epic Sports, confirmed late last week that they don’t want that arrangement, but rather to fight with Joshua, as soon as possible.