Though it hasn't been easy finding opponents for his Russian clients even without considering the coronavirus pandemic's effect, Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn hopes to have Murat Gassiev and Dmitry Bivol back in the ring this year.
The 26-year-old Gassiev (26-1, 19 KOs) suffered his first professional defeat in his most recent outing, a 12-round unanimous decision against Oleksandr Usyk on July 21, 2018, at Moscow's Olympic stadium.
Gassiev joined Matchroom and made the decision to move from cruiserweight to heavyweight after that, but a string of bad luck followed by the lockdown have stretched his ring absence to over two years.
"Murat Gassiev is training in Russia," Hearn explained in a recent DAZN interview. "He’s had so many withdrawals of fights in the last year, I’ve lost count.
"But he’s ready to make his return, at heavyweight, hopefully later this year."
The 29-year-old Bivol (17-0, 11 KOs), meanwhile, is fast approaching a year out of the ring after taking all three scorecards against Dominican challenger Gilbert Lenin Castillo in a successful defence of his WBA light-heavyweight strap on Oct. 12.
"Dmitry Bivol is in a tough spot," said Hearn. "He’s one of the most avoided fighters, and I believe he may be the best light-heavyweight in the world."
Nothing was mentioned regarding Gassiev and Bivol's expected next opponents, but with the aim being to simply end their in-ring absences before 2020 concludes, a pair of low-risk tune-ups are likely before high-profile bouts in front of crowds in 2021 follow.
"For all of these top names, it’s just a case of getting them out just once this year," the promoter said.
"Letting them get out there, letting them progress their career, letting them get paid, keeping their profile bubbling.
"And that’s the tough job for us now, coming through Fight Camp: trying to schedule all these major names and world champions without crowds. It’s going to be a tough task over the next couple of months."