Boxing, like most other sports, has already been profoundly affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus. Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world, and boxing has already seen multiple events cancelled due to the pandemic. Matchroom Boxing, the world’s leading promotional company, have seen their schedule affected, and the upcoming bout between Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev could be under threat.
Anthony Joshua, 30, suffered his first professional career loss in a shock defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr in June of last year. However, following the reverse at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Watford born heavyweight bounced back to reclaim his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles by winning the rematch against Ruiz in Saudi Arabia.
Following his return to the summit of the heavyweight division in December last year, AJ and Matchroom immediately had to begin dealing with the proposition of mandatory fights being taken by those in a position to do so. Kubrat Pulev and Oleksandr Usyk both took up their options, and a deal is in place with the former, with the fight announced to take place on June 20th at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
However, due to the current ongoing situation with the coronavirus, the bout could now be in doubt, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. This opinion has been reinforced with many betting sites including BettingOnline seeing substantial postponements and cancelations of sporting events. While he suggests they remain hopeful of the event taking place, which would be AJ’s first fight on home soil since the Alexander Povetkin bought in September of 2018, there is a chance it could switch to July 25th. As the plan is for AJ and Pulev to face off at the home of Tottenham Hotspur, the status of the Premier League season will be a crucial factor.
AJ’s mandatory title defence against Pulev is over two months away, so, it has a slight chance of taking place on its original date. However, it’s likely Dillian Whyte vs Povetkin on May 2nd, and the fight between Dereck Chisora and Usyk on May 23rd will not happen as planned. Hearn suggested he is preparing to make the decision imminently and said things “ain’t looking good.”
With the United Kingdom now in a state of lockdown, it’s difficult to see any boxing events taking place in the near to short term future, even behind closed doors. Even without fans present, there would still be a requirement for many people to be in place to allow such an event to take place. Medical staff such as ambulance crews and doctors must be on-site, for example, which is not viable as things stand.
The British Boxing Board of Control announced earlier that all UK boxing events would remain suspended until the end of April at least when they will go back and review the situation. So, more fights could come under threat if things don’t improve soon, which would be a hammer blow to the sport and those connected.