Kubrat Pulev's promoters argue for Anthony Joshua fight to be rescheduled quickly without fans

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
The June 20 heavyweight title bout between Anthony Joshua (L) and Kubrat Pulev was postponed because of the coronavirus, but Pulev's promoters are attempting to have it rescheduled. (Andrew Couldridge/Reuters)

If Kubrat Pulev gets his way, the UFC won’t be the only combat sport running.

On April 3, Matchroom Sport announced that Pulev’s fight against IBF-WBA-WBO heavyweight champion, scheduled for June 20 in England, was postponed because of concerns about the coronavirus. Pulev’s promoters, though, are trying to get the fight made soon.

John Wirt, the president of Epic Sports & Entertainment, noted the plethora of sports still being played or in the planning stages to return.

“The truth is that soccer is still being played in stadiums in Europe, the WWE had a PPV event last weekend in the United States, the German soccer league announced [Tuesday] their plans to start playing soccer soon and Major League Baseball has discussed plans to hold a modified season in Arizona,” Wirt said. “People need entertainment, and sports specifically, while being cooped up inside for this long. You can catch a fever from COVID-19, but you can also get a bad case of cabin fever if you don’t take care of your mental health. Just like Netflix, sports is an essential service because we help keep people from worrying themselves sick over this virus.”

Joshua, who regained the title on Dec. 7 in Saudi Arabia when he routed Andy Ruiz Jr. in their rematch, is a massive favorite. He was as high as 14-1 in some sports books before the fight was postponed.

But Pulev’s team wants the shot as soon as possible, and Wirt and co-promoter Ivaylo Gotzev say they have developed a contingency plan to stage the fight without fans.

Gotzev said he felt it would be safe to stage the bout without fans.

“Safety is our number one priority, but it’s now time to separate the boys from the men,” Gotzev said. “The show must go on. We cannot let fear stand in the way of our very existence. A 15-minute rapid [coronavirus] test is now readily available and soon antibody testing and certification will exist. While it is clearly not practical to test 70,000 fans coming into a stadium, testing the 100 or so persons required for the first-class television production of a world heavyweight championship fight with no live audience is now well within the realm of possibility.”

Pulev, who is 28-1 with 14 knockouts, is eager to fight.

 “As I have said repeatedly, I'm ready to battle, anytime and anyplace,” he said. “So come on AJ, let’s make this historic fight happen for the world and give our fans a battle they will never forget.”

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