Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will face mandatory IBF world title challenger Kubrat Pulev on Dec. 12 at the O2 Arena in London if everything goes according to plan, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said Thursday.
"We're still looking at alternative options with team Pulev," Hearn told ESPN, "but we are focusing on that date, and we hope to finalize everything in the next week."
With or without a live gate, Joshua, who is one of the biggest attractions in boxing, will defend his WBA, WBO and IBF titles in 2020 -- but Matchroom intends to have a live audience in place if permitted.
"Anthony Joshua will fight this year regardless," Hearn said. "We have applied, ourselves, for a test event with the U.K. government with Joshua Buatsi at the end of September. The government has already stated that from the beginning of October, live crowds will be able to return to sporting events.
"We don't know what the world is going to give us in the next couple of months," Hearn continued. "But if things keep moving like they're moving, we'll definitely be allowed fans in the O2 Arena. It's just a case of how many."
The event involving Buatsi (12-0, 10 KOs), a highly regarded light heavyweight contender, will most likely take place Sept. 27, Hearn said, and the hope is to have 2,000 to 3,000 spectators. For the time being, there is no finalized opponent, and while the venue has not been selected, the fight will be staged in London.
"The hope is that that could be the first fight where we'll see fans back in the U.K.," said Hearn, who has a full lineup of events scheduled for the fall. That list of prospective fights includes a heavyweight bout between former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and Dereck Chisora.
"We're still in discussion to try to have that happen on Oct. 31, but we've really got to make a decision by next week," said Hearn, who explained the changing economics in boxing have made negotiations a bit more difficult. "Chisora and Usyk want to do that fight, now. They don't want to wait 'til February to bring crowds back.
"But the previous offer was based on a $3 million gate, which no longer exists. So it doesn't really work, unless everyone wants to try and get creative. So that's what we're trying to do at the moment."
As for a proposed rematch between Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte, Hearn said, "That looks like it's going to be Nov. 14 or 21 in London -- it will definitely be one of those dates."
Back on Aug. 22, Povetkin climbed off the canvas twice in the fourth round to score a stunning, fifth-round stoppage of Whyte in the final installment of Fight Camp at Brentwood, Essex. With the loss, Whyte lost his No. 1 position in the WBC rankings.
Hearn said Matchroom Sports also will be announcing a slate of events to be held in the United States in the near future.
"We have one card that will be in the middle of October, which will be [Juan Francisco] Estrada, 'Chocolatito' [Roman Gonzalez] and Julio Cesar Martinez," said Hearn, who added that Estrada, the defending WBC 115-pound titlist, will face Carlos Cuadras in a rematch. Should Estrada and Gonzalez, who currently holds the WBA world title, both come out of their fights victorious, they "will fight each other in a unification fight in February or March of next year."
A November show is set to be headlined by WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney, with the hope that Yuriorkis Gamboa could be the opponent.
Hearn also suggested two-time middleweight world champion Danny Jacobs will return to action in November or early December, and that reigning WBO world titlist Demetrius Andrade could fight in the co-main event on either the Jacobs- or Haney-headlined cards.