SOFIA (Reuters) - Briton Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title defence against Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev will be postponed by several months due to the coronavirus outbreak, the IBF’s mandatory challenger said on Thursday.
The 38-year-old former European amateur super-heavyweight champion Pulev said the fight would probably take place at the end of the year instead of June 20 at Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium in London as scheduled.
The 62,000 seater stadium was no longer available after European soccer’s governing body UEFA postponed the European Championship to 2021, which means that any rescheduled Premier League fixtures could now run into the summer.
“It is impossible for the fight to take place on June 20, although I am ready,” Pulev, known as “The Cobra” said. “The match will take place a few months later, perhaps towards the end of the year.”
The flu-like corona virus that originated in China late last year has killed nearly 10,000 people and infected more than 235,000 globally. It has forced the cancellation or postponement of numerous sporting and other events.
The 30-year-old Joshua reclaimed the WBA, WBO and IBF belts back with a unanimous points win over Andy Ruiz Jr in December.
Joshua last fought in London in September, 2018 when he beat Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium.
Joshua was initially due to fight Pulev at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium in October 2017 but the Bulgarian withdrew after suffering a shoulder injury in sparring.
Pulev, one of Bulgaria’s most popular sportsmen, challenged for the IBF world heavyweight title in 2014, losing to Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg on a fifth-round knockout.
Last year Pulev was embroiled in controversy during a post-fight interview when he grabbed reporter Jennifer Ravalo’s face and kissed her after knocking out Romania’s Bogdan Dinu in the seventh round in Costa Mesa, California.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Ken Ferris