Dillian Whyte will face Alexander Povetkin on August 8 or 15 in a pay-per-view show that is also set to feature Katie Taylor putting her world lightweight titles on the line against seven-weight world champion Amanda Serrano.
Both fights had originally been scheduled for Manchester this month but were postponed because of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now they are lined up to go ahead as the fourth and final night of Matchroom’s behind-closed-doors Fight Camp in the grounds of the company headquarters in Brentwood, Essex.
Fight Camp now has a start date on July 18 or 25 and will run for four consecutive Saturday nights. Preparations moved a stage closer on Wednesday at a meeting with Arena Events – the company that built the temporary Diriyah Arena on the outskirts of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for December’s Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz rematch – to finalise plans for the venue.
Eddie Hearn had originally planned to start the series of fights on July 4 but has now decided to push the start date back at least two weeks.
“When this all started, I was just thinking ’we have got to be the first back, we have to get started’,” Hearn told Boxing Scene. “As the planning and time has passed us by, I am starting to realise that the longer you leave it the fewer obstacles and barriers will be in place.
“But there is a fine line between making sure we get back promptly and making sure that we don’t give ourselves an impossible job or a job that would jeopardise the safety of the fighters or the quality of the show.
“What seems to be difficult in the UK compared to other places in the world is that people just aren’t in the gym. They are training, but not really. Private gyms re now open, but the Board (British Boxing Board of Control) are saying don’t spar yet.
“I started off thinking July 4, but then you realise that is six weeks away. I appreciate that some people are only going to need a month to get ready, but some people are going to need eight weeks. So I am looking at July 18 or 25 as our start date for the UK Fight Camp.”
The first show is likely to feature Terri Harper defending her WBC super-featherweight title against Natasha Jonas, while Povetkin and Serrano are the only boxer from outside the UK or Ireland that have been approached to box on the shows. With quarantine restrictions set to be imposed on people coming into the UK from June 8, both are likely to have to arrive in Great Britain at least two weeks before their bouts.
“I think it is going to look great,” Hearn said. “I didn’t want to do anything in a studio or a gym for multiple reasons. One, because it is going to look terrible, two, it is just is uncreative and not just what boxing is about, and three, for the fighters, as well.
“It is going to be very hard for them to get up for this in the way they do walking into a packed arena, or peaking at the right moment, but if you are in some kind of amphitheatre with the house lit up, London in the background, fireworks going off on the lawn, at least you feel your heart racing and you can get up for what might be the most important fight of your career.
“The venue is fine for ambulances and lorries and such, there is a clear path down the side of the house. There will not be masses of vehicles because there will only be about 90 people on site.
“I don’t want to come back like Top Rank are in America, with Shakur Stevenson against some bloke you have never heard of.
“It is challenging, there are loads of obstacles, it is expensive, but I feel this is something we are going to be remembered for, a bit like Wembley with Froch-Groves or Joshua-Klitschko. I’d like to be the one that came back with something different.”
Rescheduling the Whyte-Povetkin and Taylor-Serrano show to behind-closed-doors proved a more viable option than Oleksandr Usyk v Dereck Chisora, which is also currently seeking a new date, having originally been scheduled for the O2 Arena, London, last weekend.
“Whyte-Povetkin a smaller gate in Manchester and the costs are going to be a bit smaller because of the economies of scale,” Hearn said. “This will now be one of four events outside, compared to hiring Manchester Arena and lots of hotels and flights. We are cutting the card from ten fights to five fights. That will save some money.
“The sport has to move with the times. It is going to cost us £30,000 a show for testing, it is a lot of money. We have got no choice but to return, really, it is just a case of how much money you want to stick in.
“Hopefully in eight weeks’ time things will not be as difficult as they are now. We are planning like it is a military operation.”
As well as Harper v Jonas, other fights Hearn is hoping to make for the Fight Camp series include Anthony Fowler against former European welterweight champion Sam Eggington, Conor Benn against former British welterweight champion Johnny Garton and a clash between welterweight prospects Chris Kongo and Luther Clay.
“The bigger names are not going to come back, apart from Dillian Whyte who will be on fourth week,” Hearn said. “But, generally, I just want to put on a good card. Five fights a night, so no gimmee fights, no eight-rounders against some guy who was just brought it, they will be proper fights.”
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.