Joshua will have only one fight this year, says Hearn

LONDON (Reuters) - World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will have only one fight this year but he could take on British compatriot Tyson Fury twice in 2021, his promoter Eddie Hearn said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: 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

Joshua, the WBA, WBO and IBF champion, is due to fight Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev next while Fury, the WBC champion, has a rematch due with American Deontay Wilder.

The dates and venues have yet to be set.

With neither Wilder nor Pulev standing aside, those fights will have to happen before any unification bout between the British pair.

Hearn told Sky Sports television the long-awaited clash between the two Englishmen would likely be a two-fight deal and he was ready to sign now for 2021.

“We have also now conceded that AJ will only fight once this year,” said Hearn.

“Before it was all about getting that fight (Pulev) in early August to make sure we could fight in December. Because of the preparation needed and the magnitude of his shows, AJ will only box once in 2020.”

Boxing is set to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown with fights behind closed doors but Hearn said there was a chance crowds could be allowed back this year.

“We hope between September and December live gates will return to the UK. There is also a chance they won’t -- if that’s the case, we will take the (Pulev) fight elsewhere,” he said.

“We have had a number of approaches from the Middle East, China, and Croatia to stage the fight. We want to give ourselves every opportunity to stage it in the UK but we know it may not be possible.”

Joshua won back his belts from Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia last December and has not fought since.

The Pulev fight was originally scheduled for June 20 at Tottenham Hotspur’s new 62,000-seater stadium in North London but the cornavirus pandemic changed those plans.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris