Joshua's heavyweight title defence could slip to July, says Hearn

LONDON (Reuters) - Anthony Joshua's world heavyweight title defence against Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev at Tottenham Hotspur's stadium on June 20 could be postponed to July due to the coronavirus outbreak, promoter Eddie Hearn said on Tuesday.

The bout would have been after the Premier League season finished but, with soccer on hold and European championship soccer finals postponed to 2021, any rescheduled fixtures could now run into the summer.

That could mean the 62,000 seater stadium is no longer available on that date.

"For the Anthony Joshua fight, (there are) already potential plans to move that fight back to July. We do have a potential date for that," Hearn told Sky Sports television.

"A requirement for Anthony in his next fight, a necessity for him, was to box in the UK. June 20 is a long time away, it's still in our plans. We have been speaking to Tottenham and making sure that we're all on the same page."

Hearn has other big heavyweight clashes coming up, with Dillian Whyte set to fight Russian Alexander Povetkin in Manchester on May 2 and Dereck Chisora facing Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk on May 23 at London's O2.

Whyte is the mandatory challenger for the WBC heavyweight belt, now held by Britain's Tyson Fury. Usyk is the mandatory challenger for WBA, IBO and IBF champion Joshua's WBO crown.

"All of those events are subject to change right now. We hope they won’t need to be moved but we also understand this is constantly evolving," said Hearn.

The promoter rejected a suggestion that fights could go behind closed doors.

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) said all public tournaments under its jurisdiction were cancelled until the beginning of April, when the situation would be reviewed.

"What the BBBC has said, which makes any event a complete no-no, is that we’re not sure that the right doctors and medics can be provided at these events," said Hearn.

"And more so that if there is an injury at these events we don’t know they could receive the correct and right medical attention. As soon as that comes into play, it’s not even up for consideration."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)