Joshua bout may not be behind closed doors: Promoter

The London bout has been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic and Hearn would be willing to move it to the Middle East if an audience is allowed.

Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua beat Andy Ruiz to take the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles in Saudi Arabia in December.   -  Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Anthony Joshua’s promoter said the world champion’s next title defence may not be staged behind closed doors despite the coronavirus crisis.

Eddie Hearn is considering moving Joshua’s next fight against Kubrat Pulev, which was originally scheduled for the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20.

The London bout has been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic and Hearn would be willing to move it to the Middle East if an audience is allowed there.

Joshua beat Andy Ruiz to take the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles in Saudi Arabia in December.

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Hearn has already suggested he might stage the clash between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin in an empty venue, but the financial implications of doing the same with Joshua make it unworkable.

“We’re not going to go to AJ and say, mate, there’s 10 million pound less in the pot - we’ve got to get creative,” Hearn told Boxing Social on Wednesday.

“These countries are going to be up and running a lot quicker than our country or America.

“Would Saudi (Arabia) or Dubai or Abu Dhabi be ready to stage an event in September or October? I think 100 per cent.

“If you can’t get a live gate for the bigger fights we have to look elsewhere and that involves looking at other territories.

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“Do I really want AJ to box behind closed doors? No. With what he has produced in terms of that live audience, I will be doing everything I can do make sure AJ doesn’t fight behind closed doors.”

The British Boxing Board of Control has issued a series of rules for the sport’s prospective domestic return in July, including all shows taking place without fans, and trainers and officials wearing face-masks.

Hearn said he broadly accepted the guidelines, which they insist are not necessarily binding, but called it “a very conservative starting-point”.