Eddie Hearn says he would like to stage a second between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury in Cardiff, although he believes there will be “a lot of pressure” for both fights stipulated in the deal to take place abroad.
Joshua and Fury have agreed to a two-fight deal for the undisputed world heavyweight title, although no contracts have been signed, with the UK all but being ruled out as a venue for the first fight, despite both boxers being British.
But Hearn says it would be down to both fighters to agree to accept less money than is available abroad.
The first fight is pencilled in for late May or June, meaning a rematch would likely be in November or December, making it impossible to stage the fight outdoors. That leaves the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, as the biggest venue in the UK that has a roof.
“I’d like it to be,” Hearn said when asked if they second fight would be in the UK. “At the moment as a country we have got better things to spend our money on than a major sporting event. We will be under a lot of pressure for that fight not to be in the UK but I don’t want both of them to be outside the UK if I can at all help it.”
With doubts about the ability of the UK to stage the fight in front of a big crowd this summer, the first fight looks destined to go abroad, with Hearn saying a number of venues who have shown interest will be negotiated with once contracts are signed.
“The deal is done, without being signed,” Hearn said, “The financial elements are done, we are talking through the broadcast situation now. The only thing really to be done is to paper it.
“When you paper a deal like that it does go back and forward 15 times before every single letter is approved on the document. I don’t think the deal is taking longer than expected but the contract is. I believe we have the bass if a deal in place but we don’t have a signed contract.”
Despite Bob Arum claiming that a venue has been agreed, Hearn said that negotiations about where to stage the fight have not even begun, although there has been plenty of interest.
“We're in a position now where everything is being finalised in the contractual sense, then we will go to the venues where we've had offers. We're almost at a point now where we can go out to the venues with confidence and say we have a fight.
“There is definitely not a venue agreed for the fight but there are conversations going on with a number of venues. Once everybody's on board and signed, we'll collectively go out and speak to these sites we've had approaches from and look to do the best deal for the fighters - not just from a financial perspective but from a logistical point of view as well.
“And everything is changing - one country is all of a sudden coming out of the pandemic, they're really aggressive, they've got a lot of money for tourism, they want to say: we're back. And then two weeks later they go into a lockdown so it's very, very difficult at the moment to move with that much confidence or certainty and it's not a great time to be discussing international sporting events but we're at that period - end of May, early June - where people are a lot more confident that there'll be in a better place to stage it.
“We've had conversations with Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Eastern Europe, America.
“We've had so many approaches in the past about so many different fights. Generally, half of them are real and half are someone who's trying to spin some commission. That's why I want to get into a position where we can go out collectively to talk to these people once a deal is in place.
“I think the Middle East will be very aggressive and will be frontrunners in this. But we've had a lot of other interesting approaches from territories that we might not have thought were players in this fight but I believe they are.”
Hearn believes the winning bid will probably be from a country whose government is happy to back the event financially.
“To stage this fight you’re going to need significant government support,” he said. “I don’t think a major gate alone [will be enough], and this is the problem with the US where we could do a huge gate. It needs to be bigger than that.
“It’s going to be difficult for a country that doesn’t have financial support from the government to land an event like this. You need someone who is going to stage the fight as a statement for their country, for exposure for their country, to showcase tourism and to showcase they’re up and running as a nation.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.