Promoter Eddie Hearn remains optimistic that crowds will be able to attend the unified heavyweight championship fight between Anthony Joshua 23-1 (21) and Kubrat Pulev 28-1 (14) at the O2 Arena in London on December 12.
The global coronavirus pandemic has meant boxing shows in the UK have taken place without an audience in recent months, greatly impacting the revenue available to promoters.
But the Matchroom Boxing boss said the fight will still go ahead even if there is no live gate.
“Someone said to me last night: ‘Presumably, if you can’t get crowds back, AJ won’t fight.’ No, AJ will fight behind closed doors if he has to this year,” Hearn said.
“He must fight. He’s progressing as a fighter, he’s learning all the time, he’s challenging himself. He doesn’t want to sit on the shelf.
“We believe through the pilot schemes that we’ll run in September and then fans coming back in October, there’s a good chance that Anthony Joshua can have a strong crowd at the O2 on Dec. 12.
“That’s the target date for that fight. Things are nearly wrapped up with Pulev’s team as well for that date. Hopefully we can build towards a massive finish to the year.”
Hearn created a successful series of televised shows in his own garden without an audience, colloquially known as ‘Eddie Hearn’s House Party Vols.1-4’.
The other fights Hearn is working on finalising before the end of the year are Oleksandr Usyk vs Dereck Chisora and Dillian Whyte’s rematch against Alexander Povetkin.
The working date for Usyk-Chisora is late October, while Whyte is expected to get his change to avenge his fifth-round knockout loss to Povetkin in November.
Both fights should be officially announced in the coming weeks.
The other big deal in the pipeline is the highly anticipated clash between Joshua and WBC counterpart Tyson Fury 30-0-1 (21).
A two-fight deal has been agreed to in principle with the fights set to take place in 2021.
Joshua, 30, has not fought since December when he avenged his shock sixth-round knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York in June last year with a wide 12-round unanimous decision win in Saudi Arabia.
The 32-year-old Fury is coming off a seven-round beatdown of Deontay Wilder in their rematch in Las Vegas last February. He owes the American knockout artist a third fight before the Joshua clash can come to fruition.
It’s a fight that Hearn says has to happen as it would bring together Joshua’s WBA, IBF and WBO titles with Fury’s green belt to determine the number one heavyweight of the current era.
“Fury against AJ’s a must,” Hearn said. “I saw the comments [by Fury and his co-promoter Frank Warren], ‘They don’t want it, they don’t want it.’
“You have to understand: Why would you not want the fight that’s the biggest ever for British boxing history?”
He added: “I spoke to [Fury’s co-promoter] Bob Arum. We’ve been having some deep conversations about that fight all week. Actually, me and Bob are ready to move forward and close that fight now.”