Anthony Joshua 23-1 (21) will defend his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles against Bulgarian Kubrat ‘The Cobra’ Pulev 28-1 (14) at the O2 Arena in London on December 12.
The 31-year-old unified heavyweight champion is hopeful that crowds will be allowed into the venue in what will be his first fight on home soil in more than two years.
Joshua was originally scheduled to defend his belts against IBF mandatory challenger Pulev on June 20 but the fight was postponed due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
“December 12 is the date and once again the heavyweight belts go up in the air and it is my sole focus to make sure that come December 13 they are in their rightful place in the UK,” Joshua said.
“The O2 is the original lion’s den, I have a lot of history with the arena, but without the fans something huge is missing.
Plans for the return fans at stadiums for elite sporting events from October were put on hold by the government amid a rise in the novel coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom.
“I am really hoping that, safety permitting, we might be able to bring some boxing fans in, but we will have to see,” Joshua added.
“I respect every opponent and I respect Pulev. I wish him well during his preparation.”
If Joshua is successful against Pulev it will clear the way for a four-belt heavyweight unification bout with fellow Brit and WBC champion Tyson Fury 30-0-1 (21) next year in what is expected to be a two-fight series.
But the 39-year-old Pulev – whose lone loss came against Wladimir Klitschko in a challenge for the same belts six years ago – says he will be leaving London with the hardware in his suitcase.
“For a small country of Bulgaria to stand up for the heavyweight titles is a great accomplishment,” Pulev said.
“This fight is for my late father and all Bulgarians around the world! I’m coming to London to seize the heavyweight championship of the world.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing is predicting a typically devastating performance from Joshua while saying he will be doing everything he can to get a live crowd into the arena.
“Whilst it’s unusual to think of an AJ fight without tens of thousands of fans in attendance, we will be doing everything we can to lobby for the safe return of fans to this event,” he said.
“We have to move forward together. I know Team Pulev and Bob Arum will be doing all they can to become world champion on December 12, but AJ constantly evolves and improves and I expect a dominant performance and a spectacular KO to close out 2020.”