Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title defence against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev has been officially postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, promoters Matchroom Sport announced Friday.
The British champion was due to put his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts up for grabs against Bulgarian challenger Pulev at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on June 20.
But the global spread of COVID-19 has put paid to a bout on that date.
“Anthony Joshua’s defence of his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO heavyweight world titles against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev scheduled to take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday June 20 has been postponed,” said a Matchroom statement.
“A new date for the event promoted by Matchroom Boxing and 258 Management in association with Top Rank and Epic Sports Entertainment is currently being worked on.
“We will announce any updates in due course and continue to explore the possibility of hosting this fight at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.”
This is the second time Pulev has missed out on the chance to face Joshua after a shoulder injury forced him out of a world title bout in October 2017.
– Fury preference –
Earlier on Friday, Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, said his champion’s lone contest of 2020 might be with Tyson Fury in a world unification bout if the spread of COVID-19 means he only has time for one bout this year.
A clash with compatriot Fury, the WBC heavyweight champion would be one of the most eagerly anticipated contests in British boxing history.
Hearn, while open to the possibility of the Pulev fight being postponed until the end of July warned any further delay could see a change of plan.
“If it starts kicking on beyond that, you get to a situation where if Joshua is only going to box once this year he’d like it to be against Tyson Fury,” Hearn told Sky Sports.
Fury is expected to complete his trilogy with Deontay Wilder later in 2020, having dethroned the American in February, but Hearn is hopeful some negotiations could be possible.
“The situation is a little bit out of our hands,” he said. “If Bob Arum and Al Haymon (Fury and Wilder’s promoters) can talk and make Deontay Wilder wait a little bit we would love to go into that fight next.
“We are contractually bound to face Pulev who is with Bob Arum and there is a deal to be done. A lot depends on Deontay Wilder.”
Joshua suffered a shock seventh-round defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr at New York’s Madison Square Garden in June last year that saw him relinquish several world titles.
But his last bout saw the 30-year-old Joshua avenge that loss and regain his belts with a victory over Ruiz in Saudi Arabia in December.