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Anthony Joshua 'needs to fight this year, fans or no fans'

anthony-joshua-120319-getty-ftr (Getty Images)

Anthony Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn has vowed that the WBA (Super), WBO and IBF heavyweight champion will fight before the end of 2020, even if they are unable to get any fans into the building.

Hearn says he's close to confirming the mandatory title defence for Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) against Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) for Dec. 12. The O2 Arena in London is the planned site of the showdown, though the Matchroom chief admitted in an interview on Sky Sports that he is still waiting for news on how many tickets they can sell, if any.

"One thing that’s important for our schedule — and that includes AJ — is that we crack on, fans or no fans," said Hearn.

"We’ve got to find a way to keep this momentum going, and we will do it. It’s very difficult, as we know, but all of these fighters, including Anthony, are committed to fighting this year, behind closed doors or in front of fans."

Hearn was on Sky discussing the day's announcement of a rematch between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin, a fight Joshua attended as a guest pundit. In addition to the Nov. 21 return bout, Matchroom have announced a card for Oct. 4 headlined by Joshua Buatsi, and confirmed details for the planned Oct. 17 show featuring Lewis Ritson vs. Miguel Vazquez.

"Tomorrow we have a little bit of feedback coming from the Government, where we’ll hope we’ll be allowed a thousand fans in for the Buatsi and Ritson shows," Hearn said in the interview.

"And then, as we move to November, hopefully Whyte-Povetkin II can have fans in attendance. There’s a little outside chance you might [fans at] Usyk-Chisora on Oct. 31 as well. And Dec. 12 is the date we’re trying to make for Joshua vs. Pulev.

"We’re on the verge of an announcement for that fight. We hope and pray that it can be in front of a packed O2 Arena, or at least with some kind of crowd in some kind of capacity.

"But Joshua’s career must continue. As we build up to the undisputed fight next year, he needs to fight this year — fans or no fans."

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