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Hearn: Joshua vs. Pulev could do $10 million+ gate

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

By Tim Royner: Eddie Hearn is counting on Anthony Joshua defending his IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles against Kubrat Pulev from September to November. He’s hoping that a vaccine will be created by then, but he’s already planning on thing the Joshua vs. Pulev fight outside of the UK.

It’s impossible for Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) to fight behind closed doors because of the gate, which he estimates could be over $10 million for his title defense against Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs).

Joshua-Pulev can’t take place without fans

“Before all of this, we were so red hot,” said Hearn to S.I. Podcast about the pandemic and the fights that were taking place before it hit. “We were talking to Kazakhstan; we were talking to China, we were speaking to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

“All these territories. We want to stage a major fight. I can’t tell you right now that my phone is ringing from countries, saying, ‘We want to stage a major fight.’ There will be, and they want to show that they’re up and running as a destination. But right now, people have bigger problems. We have to substitute that big gate for the mega-fights somehow.

“Canelo against Billy Joe is a problem,” said Hearn. “That’s a fight that can do an $8 million gate. How is that subsidized? [Anthony] Joshua against [Kubrat] Pulev. That could be a $10 million gate. We can’t just do it behind closed doors. Where does the $10 million go? So we have to look internationally, and we have to be creative.

“Some territories like Australia and New Zealand, they’re basically reporting zero cases. So some countries are going to rebound quicker. So we’ve got to be creative in ways to substitute a gate if we can’t happen in territories that we’d ideally like it to,” said Hearn.

Recently, Joshua said that he was willing to defend his titles behind closed doors, but that’s not something that Hearn is interested in. Hearn is fine with some of his other fighters in his Matchroom stable fighting without an audience, but not his big-ticket guy Joshua.

The gate can’t be replaced for Joshua

“That kind of segues into a question about Anthony Joshua,” said Chris Mannix. “I mean, the [Kubrat] Pulev fight that is tentatively scheduled for the summertime. Is that something that just can’t exist in the U.K. based on what we know right now on the lockdown rules and the future of the sport. Have you actively explored other possibilities?”

“Yeah, it’s a fight that I can see happening,” said Hearn on the Joshua vs. Pulev fight. “We’re all working together for different alternatives. We had an approach from an amphitheater and coliseum in Croatia last week and some guys that wanted to bring the fight out there.

“The Middle East has shown interest in that fight as well. We really wanted to do that fight in the U.K., but it’s virtually impossible to do it. I really don’t want to do an A.J. fight behind closed doors. I just don’t think [I’d like to do that]. His whole career and his whole brand has been built on the fact that he’s a huge draw with tens of thousands of people,” said Hearn.

It’s impossible to replace a gate of $10 million+ for Joshua, which is why Hearn is looking at alternative options to take his next fight outside of the UK. Croatia and the Middle East seem to be the two leading options for that fight.

Joshua vs. Pulev possible from September to November

“We’re talking fireworks and Sweet Caroline. To go do it in a dark studio or empty hall, it just wouldn’t feel right. A.J. is a little bit different in that there’s going to be plenty of approaches, and there has been about staging that fight.

“So I see A.J. fighting anywhere from September or November, to be honest with you. Obviously, we’re waiting on Wilder and Fury are going to have the same problem. They’re going to want to generate a $10-15 million gate. So they may look internationally for that fight as well, and obviously, the winners of those fights must fight each other,” said Hearn.

It’ll be up to the country that is willing to stage the Joshua vs. Pulev fight when they can do it. If Joshua does fight in September, he’s going to need to get ready quickly because there’s only four months to go.

Hearn expects Vegas reopening for live events this year

“When do you think the earliest is that we could see a real live gate?” said Mannix. “Understanding that there’s a lot of unknowns with all this, do you have a date in your head saying, ‘We’e got to schedule fights behind closed doors until when?’

“Are you saying U.S. or U.K.?” said Hearn.

“I’m saying both,” said Mannix.

“The U.S. is interested, but you are governed by States, okay?” said Hearn. “I have to look at Las Vegas right now. At what point does Vegas have to turn around and say, ‘We have to go for it here?’ The business and economy over there has to be absolutely on its knees.

“I think the MGM has something like 69,000 employees were made redundant or something. They’re going to want to drive big events over there as soon as possible. I’d be very surprised if you didn’t see a big live gate back in Vegas this year. I’d be very surprised,” said Hearn.

Las Vegas has to reopen soon because the city is really suffering right now due to it being closed down of the pandemic. It’s surprising that it hasn’t reopened already given the huge unemployment problem.

Hearn confident live gates will return soon

“Sometimes people kind of forget that it’s only May,’ said Hearn. “A vaccine solves all of this, but when’s that coming? August, September, October, or November? You’ve got to think it’s somewhere. There’s a lot of people working on it.

“But for me, I think live gates will return in the U.S. faster than they will in the U.K., and I think it’s 50-50 if we see live gates in the U.K. this year. But I believe we’ll see live gates, particularly in Las Vegas, around November or December.

“I think that’ll open up the door than for a Canelo-GGG fight and maybe a Joshua fight or Fury-Wilder fight. And you know that the MGM and all these big organizations are going to need to bring major fights to Las Vegas because they’re going to need to open that place up and drive people back in.

“They’re going to be gunning or major fights, which is good news. That’s why we have to make them,” said Hearn.

If not Las Vegas being the one that starts allowing lives gates, you can expect a state like New York or New Jersey.

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

Whyte vs. Povetkin will be behind closed doors

“You have other significant U.K. fighters,” said Mannix. “You’ve got the Usyk-Chisora fight; that was scheduled for this month actually. Does that mean those fights can’t happen in the U.K., or are you willing to do stuff like that behind closed doors?”

“I think we have to do some behind closed doors,” said Hearn. “I’ve already made plans for Whyte-Povetkin behind closed doors. I may add Katie Taylor and Serrano to that as well. That’s a fight that was going to generate over one million pound gate, you know?

“So it’s not easy, but I’ve made the decision that I will start with Whyte-Povetkin as our first big fight back because I don’t want to do rubbish. I’d rather wait. There’s no value to saying, ‘Oh, we did it. and it did nothing.’

“The ratings were poor.’ We’ve got to chance it while people are home to actually drive pay-per-view buys in the U.K. and decent viewership numbers. In the U.S., we need to drive subscription numbers with DAZN because people are at home, and people are interested in the live sport right now.

“So you’re going to see, whether it’s Usyk0-Chisora or Whyte-Povetkin or whether it’s the U.K., you’re going to see some of those fights behind closed doors because I don’t feel comfortable about just rolling out the rubbish when we return,” said Hearn.

The heavyweight clash between Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin is being planned to take place in the summer at the Matchroom headquarters. This should be interesting.

DAZN wants big events

“Is that offer for Jermall Charlo still on the table?” said Mannix.

“Yeah, I still think it is,” said Hearn. “I don’t think DAZN is going to turn around and say, ‘We don’t have the money anymore for big fights. That’s what they want, but what they might do is hurt the smaller and middle levels where they go, ‘No, no, we don’t want that. We want the biggest possible to come back with, which is good news for fight fans.’

“So in that respect, Charlo against Andrade wouldn’t be a problem, but as we know, Charlo started off that he was his own boss. And when I made him an offer, they told me that I have to speak to Al [Haymon].

“Who knows? We just want to see boxing back. It’s down to all of us now. Me, Bob [Arum], Al [Haymon] to make sure that we deliver, and we have to use this moment to deliver,” said Hearn.

It’s good news that DAZN wants big events to take place because there are a lot of subscribers that will want value for their money. Moreover, DAZN won’t be able to attract new subscribers without them putting on great shows.

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