Eddie Hearn wants to stage Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title fight with Kubrat Pulev in front of a small crowd of high-rollers at a high-profile London venue in October or November.

Speaking exclusively to BoxingScene.com, the promoter revealed that he is planning to stage the fight with a crowd of 1,000 at either the Royal Albert Hall or Olympia, in a plush VIP event.

The Royal Albert Hall and Olympia are both prestigious venues with a history of staging boxing events going back more than a century. The Albert Hall is best known worldwide as a concert venue and the home of the Last Night of The Proms, but first staged boxing in 1918. Lennox Lewis made his professional debut there and Muhammad Ali boxed an exhibition bout in 1979.

Olympia is a best known as an exhibition space, but among the fights it has staged were the 1921 world light-heavyweight title fight between Georges Carpentier and Ted “Kid” Lewis.

At present there are no plans for sport to take place in the UK in front of crowds because of the coronavirus lockdown, but as restrictions start to ease, Hearn believes it will be possible to stage events in front of restricted crowds before the end of the year.

“I definitely see crowds coming back as early as September,” Hearn said.

“I really want to do the fight in the UK. So I am thinking AJ boxes in October or November, why can’t we go to the Royal Albert Hall or Olympia and do 1,000 people, a proper glitz and glamour event, charge people a lot of money to go, dinner before, a party, drinks and everyone is a couple of metres apart from everyone.”

After boxing abroad twice in 2019, Joshua had insisted his next fight with Pulev, the IBF mandatory contender, would be at home. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20 was announced as the venue and date, but when the coronavirus lockdown was announced, those plans were scrapped and it soon became clear that an alternative date of July 25 would not be possible either.

The problem facing Hearn is that the lack of an expected 60,000 live gate puts a huge whole in the finances for the fight. By keeping the audience to a small, select group, Hearn believes he can maximise the gate revenue.

“If you are doing 1,000 tickets, there is a dinner before and an after-party, it is a hell of a ticket if you are a fight fan to go and watch something like that so close up,” Hearn said.

“We just have to be creative; people will want to go out. It will take time for people to rediscover the confidence to go to event with crowds.

“I know there is a chance there could be a second spike, but if they start opening up restaurants in July and outdoor pubs, it will be very difficult to not allow gatherings of 100, 200, 500 or 1,000.”

It had been rumoured that Saudi Arabia, where Joshua won his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr in December, might be a possible location, but Hearn said it was unlikely that they would be confident to commit to staging an event like Joshua-Pulev yet, even if he admitted he was open to offers.

“I think if Saudi are going to look for a return of boxing it will be more like the back end of the year, November or December,” Hearn said. “I don’t think anyone has any confidence right now to be booking things up and spending money.

“You see [Bob] Arum talking about the Far East and Australia, there are definitely going to be countries that are wanting to establish themselves as open for business.

“So, staging a big fight and maybe a big heavyweight fight might be appealing to them. That goes for Oleksandr Usyk- Dereck Chisora [which had been originally scheduled for last weekend] and AJ-Pulev.”

Hearn said he had also received no firm offer to stage the event in Croatia, after it was reported that there had been a move to stage it at a Roman amphitheatre at the resort city of Pula on the Adriatic coast.

“We have had no official confirmation of offers from Croatia, but discussions are ongoing and we are open to that,” he said. “It looks like a fantastic arena. If the deal was right we would have no problem looking at that as well.” 

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.