Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev could be staged abroad after latest lockdown floors plan to have fans inside The O2

Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev could be staged abroad after latest lockdown floors plan to have fans inside The O2

ANTHONY JOSHUA’S clash with Kubrat Pulev could still end up being staged abroad — to cover an £8million Covid KO.

Watford hero AJ’s mandatory defence against the Bulgarian was meant to be at Tottenham’s new stadium in June, securing him a monster payday.


But the coronavirus crisis forced the fight to be delayed until December 12.

Promoter Eddie Hearn secured London’s O2 to host it and pleaded with Government to allow some socially distanced fans inside.

But latest lockdown rules floored that idea — leaving a huge financial blackhole.

And that may force them to seek out a venue outside the UK after Saudi Arabia stumped up £100m for Joshua’s 2019 rematch win against Andy Ruiz.

Having watched Oleksandr Usyk outpoint Derek Chisora on Saturday at Wembley Arena, Hearn said: “We have the best bubble in boxing and elite sport is not part of lockdown.

“We can sustain it — but we want to be a profitable business.

“We lost what would have been a £2m gate at the O2 for this fight.

“We made it up by sticking some of ours in, Sky adding some and the fighters taking less to balance it out.

“AJ was going to take £8m on the gate at Spurs so obviously he is taking a pay cut.

“We will try to have fans at the Joshua fight — but we could also take it somewhere internationally.”

If the fight did stay on these shores, then it makes more sense for Hearn to hold it at Wembley Arena after the successful Chisora v Usyk night.

Hearn added: “If we can’t have any fans inside the O2 then we will probably move the AJ fight here — as we have everything set up.

“The problem is nobody has any confidence to agree to anything in December, let alone January or February. People won’t sign things for April or May as they don’t know if they will be open.”

Usyk’s 12-round scrap with Brit Chisora, 36, was watched ringside by AJ.

And the former undisputed cruiserweight king sent him a chilling message.

Staring straight down a camera lens, Usyk, 33, growled: “Anthony Joshua, hello, I am coming for you.”

And Hearn admits the Ukrainian might refuse to step aside and let Joshua leap into an undisputed decider with Tyson Fury — if he passes his Pulev test.

The promoter said: “Usyk is going to struggle at heavyweight as he gives away so much size and that is what makes him beatable.

“I think AJ and Fury rate Usyk very highly, but I don’t think they have the fear factor for him.

“AJ told me he had the fight really close and he thought Del did well. AJ wants to fight Usyk.

I still think Usyk is a huge favourite against Dubois — but Dubois does have great size.

“It’s all business, money is important to them but Usyk wants a heavyweight world title.

“Everyone will want to fight Usyk and if we cannot do the Fury fight, then AJ will fight him.”

Usyk is WBO mandatory challenger for AJ’s titles and is next in line after Pulev gets his crack via his standing with the IBF.

If the involved parties cannot come to an agreement, Joshua could be forced to drop the belt — leaving Usyk to compete for the vacant strap.

And AJ prefers to move ahead with a two-fight mega deal with Fury that has already been financially agreed.

Hearn would have no problem with another young Brit getting a chance in No 2 ranked Daniel Dubois, 23.

He said: “We will do whatever is ordered and there will be a queue.

“Joseph Parker is No 3 and is fighting Junior Fa, who is No 6, so the winner will push for that No 2 slot.

“I still think Usyk is a huge favourite against Dubois — but Dubois does have great size.

“Usyk will box his ears off at the moment, yet the size advantage is huge and Dubois certainly punches very hard.”

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