May 1, 2020 / 2:37 AM / 25 days ago

Joshua would fight behind closed doors only as last resort - Hearn

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua would fight behind closed doors only as a last resort, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.

Boxing - Anthony Joshua poses with the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO World Heavyweight belts after winning his title fight against Andy Ruiz Jr - Al Faisaliah Tower, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - December 8, 2019 Anthony Joshua poses with the belts Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge/Files

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) said on Thursday it hoped professional boxing could resume in July without spectators after everything was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It added that any event would be limited to five fights at most, subject to review, with strict social distancing for anyone present.

“I want to give ourselves every opportunity to stage AJ in front of a crowd. We have to probably bite the bullet and say he’s only going to box once this year,” Hearn told iFL TV.

“So if that’s the case, we’re OK to go in September or October. I don’t want really to go much further than that, he hasn’t boxed nearly for a year.

“My preference is AJ with a crowd in the UK. My next preference is AJ in another country with a crowd. And my last resort is AJ behind closed doors.”

Joshua won back his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO belts from Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia last December.

His next fight was due to be against Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev on June 20 but that is on hold. It was scheduled to be at Tottenham Hotspur’s new 62,000-seater stadium in North London.

Hearn told the BBC that a postponed heavyweight bout between Dillian Whyte and Russian Alexander Povetkin could be the first major fight without a crowd, but ruled out putting it on in a studio environment.

“I want to build a fight camp, a different kind of environment, more dramatic. It will look spectacular on TV. We need to dramatise it,” he said.

“It’s about taking over a hotel, testing all the teams, creating a sterile fight camp where no-one goes in until we know they’ve had a negative test. It’s about creating changing room areas, ring walks. It will add to the story.”

Hearn also advised Britain’s top amateur boxers to shelve any thoughts of going professional until after next year’s Tokyo Olympics because opportunities will be limited until then.

Several had intended to turn pro later this year before the Games were postponed to 2021.

“When we sign an amateur, we like to box them eight times a year, that will put a huge pressure on us,” he said.

“Big-time boxing won’t get back until later this year. By the time that comes around, you only have to wait six months. So I’d say go to the Olympics, get a medal and increase your profile.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond

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