By: Hans Themistode
2020 has become an absolute crap shoot.
The year started off with such promise as big time matchups between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury led the way. But with COVID-19 turning the boxing world upside down, notable fighters have seen their once busy schedule dwindle down considerably.
For unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in particular, his schedule has been nonexistent.
With a win over Andy Ruiz Jr. to take back the titles that were ripped away from his broad shoulders in late 2019, Joshua was set to return in mid 2020 in a mandatory title defense against number one contender Kubrat Pulev. Assuming Joshua made it out of that contest in one piece, a date with WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk awaited him. From there, a matchup with Tyson Fury would be next on the docket.
Yet, before boxing fans can wipe the drool from the side of their mouths as they envision those future matchups, Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) must first make his 2020 debut. Unfortunately for the British born champion however, the lack of a live audience has made his return an arduous question to answer.
“We know AJ’s only going to fight once this year,” said promoter Eddie Hearn to ESPN. “We want to give ourselves the best opportunity to bring in a crowd, and obviously the later the better. But it’s still not a gimme at all. There’s still a very strong chance that AJ will have to fight behind closed doors.”
Throwing punches inside of an empty arena will be much different for a man who has grown accustomed to doing so in front of thousands of screaming British fans. The O2 arena in Liverpool, England has become the 30 year old Joshua’s home away from home. But even with countless knockouts inside of that aforementioned venue, it doesn’t seem likely that Joshua will be making a trip there for his matchup with Pulev.
“Their regulations comply with the government, so at the moment they’re closed,” explained Hearn. “So they would need to open up. We’d need to get an understanding from the government what is allowed in arenas. Are you going to open at 50 per cent [capacity]? Are you going to open up 100 per cent? There’s a lot of work that has to go into that with the government and The O2.”