Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will defend his titles against contender Kubrat Pulev the first week of December, according to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn. The fight was originally scheduled for June 20 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London but was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We know AJ's only going to fight once this year, so we want to give ourselves the best opportunity to bring in a crowd, and that would obviously be the later the better," Hearn told ESPN. "But it's still not a gimme at all. There's still a very strong chance that AJ will have to fight behind closed doors."
Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) owns the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles and is the sport's biggest attraction in terms of gate revenue. He often performs in front of massive crowds in facilities like Wembley Stadium, but in 2020 that simply may not be in the cards. He hasn't fought since defeating Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia last December.
"Bearing in mind he's only going to fight once this year, I just feel as we might as well give ourselves every chance to have a crowd and that will be the first weekend of December," added Hearn, who also noted that the O2 Arena in London would be the preferred venue if the country's regulations allow them the opportunity.
"Their regulations comply with the government, so at the moment they're closed," Hearn said. "So they would need to open up. We'd need to get an understanding from the government what is allowed in arenas. Are you going to open at 50 percent [capacity]? Are you going to open up 100 percent? There's a lot of work that has to go into that with the government and the O2."
There also are plans in the works for Joshua to face WBC champion Tyson Fury, but Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs), the IBF's mandatory challenger, is up first.
"He must box this year, and obviously it's up to me to find a solution and a crowd," Hearn said of Joshua. "But he also knows at the same time, he must fight because it will be a year in December since the Ruiz fight.
"He's still improving, he's still learning, and he's not prepared to just sit out and not fight."