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UK goverment won’t allow fans back to sporting events in October

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

By Jeff Aronow: In bad news for British boxing, British prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that he plans on reviewing the idea of allowing live sporting events in England beginning on October 1st.

Johnson admits that he hasn’t given up on the idea entirely, but he’s going to review it. Recently, there’s been an increase in cases for the COVID-19, and it’s not a good idea for sporting events to resume in front of live crowds beginning next month in England.

Johnson also said that the pilot events in September would be limited to 1,000 fans in attendance.

For fighters like Anthony Joshua, Callum Smith, and Billy Joe Saunders, what Boris Johnson is saying isn’t music to their ears. They all hoped to fight in front of limited crowds in the fall, and that doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen now.

Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn hasn’t said what his Plan-B option is for Joshua’s December 12th fight against Kubrat Pulev. He was obviously counting on staging that fight in front of a limited-sized crowd in the UK.

If that’s not going to happen, Hearn will need to consider whether it’s worth it or not to stage the fight outside of the UK in the Middle East or some other foreign country that is willing to host live events.

The problem that Hearn has for the Joshua-Pulev fight is it’s not an important one that foreign countries would be interested in hosting. Pulev, 39, is an old guy who earned his IBF mandatory position by beating Hughie Fury.

The Bulgarian Pulev didn’t have to defeat a talented heavyweight to earn his IBF mandatory.

He had a gimme with the International Boxing Federation sanctioning his fight with Hughie as a title eliminator. The interest in the Joshua-Pulev fight would likely be higher if Pulev had to beat someone like Dillian Whyte in a title eliminator rather than the light-hitting Hughie.

“We must revise plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month and review our intention to return audiences to stadiums from 1 October,” said Boris Johnson. “But that doesn’t mean we are going to scrap the program entirely. We are just going to have to review it and abridge it.”

It’s possible that live sporting events could wind up dramatically limited in terms of audiences, which isn’t good for the promoters or the fighters. At the same time, the bigger stars like Joshua can handle losing the gate money, but not the less popular fighters. They’re not going to want to fight for free, especially against talented opposition in risky fights.

For the smaller promoters in the UK, this has got to be brutal for them and their shows. If they can’t stage fights in front of live crowds for the remainder of 2020, what happens to them and their fighters? There’s no way of knowing when the UK government will allow live sporting events to continue.



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