Eddie Hearn would rather cancel Anthony Joshua’s June 20 homecoming fight than deny fans the chance to see their hero over Coronavirus.
AJ is set to fight Kubrat Pulev at Tottenham Stadium after almost two years on the road fighting Andy Ruiz Jr in New York and Saudi Arabia. But the long-awaited comeback could be hit by the Covid-19 scare that has swept into Europe from China.
Manchester United’s Thursday night away clash with LASK will be played behind closed doors in Austria. And Manchester City’s league match with Arsenal on Wednesday has been postponed with several Gunners players in self-isolation.
Hearn, who also has an O2 Arena show booked for March 28 and a Newcastle card for April 4, has been in meetings with government officials about the steps being taken. And he is fully aware of the seriousness of the situation after having two Matchroom shows in Italy cancelled as they battle the outbreak.
The promoter said: “For me, boxing is unique in many ways, particularly in terms of the role that the fans play in making a fighter peak in a very important moment in their career. I cannot see how we can stage a fight behind closed doors with no crowd.
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“Can you imagine Anthony Joshua walking to fight Kubrat Pulev in front of you and me and [Sky Sports head of boxing] Adam Smith? It’s just not going to happen. Could you imagine Derek Chisora fighting Oleksandr Usyk behind closed doors and laying him out with a punch from the gods and standing on the turnbuckle to see no-one? The crowd are so integral to the dramatic aspect of the sport of boxing, and in terms of being a TV product. For me, it’s very difficult to do it behind closed doors.”
Hearn has a duty to get fights and paydays for dozens of fighters all over the UK and most of them – outside of elite champions – survive on selling their own tickets. Unlike footballers with guaranteed wages and lengthy fixture lists, there are only so many shows fighters can get on to make ends meet. So Hearn is hoping the panic is averted ASAP so the British boxing boom led by AJ can carry on.
He said: “This is a sport where it could really impact the livelihood of the athletes and talent. Everybody’s hands are tied by government decisions that of course are there to act in the best interests of the country and the British public. What will be, will be. Right now, ‘business as normal’ and we go ahead with an incredible schedule that we hope will go ahead in full.”
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