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Joshua vs Pulev: "You may see AJ vacate the IBF title in this instance," insists Eddie Hearn

Joseph Herron Updated
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While most interested heavyweight fight fans are waiting for February 22nd to finally roll around, current WBA/IBF and WBO champion Anthony Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn are attempting to finalize a deal with IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev for a projected date in either late May or early June.

Although both parties want to compete for AJ's IBF title, the money and venue are still up in the air. As of right now, both items are still being negotiated and will ultimately determine whether or not a fight between Joshua and Pulev actually happens.

"We want to do it in London," AJ's promoter recently stated to iFL TV. "Anywhere in London. Olympic Stadium, Tottenham (Hotspur Stadium), Emirates (Stadium), Millennium (O2 Arena)...Wembley's not in play. But we'd rather do it in London. We're also talking to Twickenham (Stadium) for May 23rd, May 30th, and June 6th."

After competing in New York City and Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, in 2019, London, England, makes the most sense if you're the reigning champ. Although big-money offers are in play for other venues and locations, keeping your loyal fanbase happy and energized must be a paramount consideration. Joshua is currently the biggest draw in the heavyweight division by far, and he, along with promoter Eddie Hearn, would like to keep it that way.

Unfortunately, Team Pulev would prefer staging the event in a different location...preferably for greater money.

"This is the issue we have. Pulev wants as much money as possible. The place that generates probably the least amount of money (being discussed) is probably the UK. Pulev just wants to go wherever the fight has the most value, obviously. AJ is not really bothered about how much it generates."

"AJ is not thinking of going to wherever he can make the most amount of money to fight Pulev. He wants to fight in London. He wants to do it in the UK."

The popular Briton would be wise to compete in front of his adoring fans once again. It's been well over a year since AJ and Matchroom Sport have organized an event in England. The last time Joshua fought in front of his hometown fans was in September of 2018, when the champ successfully defended his titles against Alexander Povetkin in front of 80K spectators at Wembley Stadium.

To AJ's surprise, his mandatory challenger posted this link on January 16th, to his preferred social media pages, announcing an "official" fight location of Istanbul, Turkey:

Official: Cobra against Joshua in Istanbul for May

Hearn insists that there is nothing "official" about Pulev's recent post.

"So Turkey has come from Pulev's team, who have come to me said they've received interest from Turkey. Look, go and explore it, find out the numbers and we'll do the same, whether it's Saudi or Nigeria or Congo or wherever. All these places are in play."

"For us, it feels like the right step now is to come back to London, and that's what we want to do...that's if Pulev will agree to it."

Although Team Pulev is justified in entertaining any lucrative and potential site fee that comes their way, they would be wise to remember who the champion and genuine breadwinner is in this specific scenario.

Despite wanting to keep his coveted IBF heavyweight strap around his waist, a popular fighter like Anthony Joshua doesn't need any major world title to attract fans to his events.

"It might get to a stage where AJ will have to say, 'look, it's in London or I'm going to vacate the belt', which is a possibility. You may see him vacate the belt in this instance."

Being the IBF mandatory challenger does guarantee a fighter the opportunity to compete for the desired red belt, but it doesn't guarantee a payday opposite Anthony Joshua. Pulev would be wise to remember that 20% of a purse with Anthony Joshua in London is ultimately more money than 60% of a purse in Istanbul, Turkey against anyone else in the division.

A fight with Anthony Joshua is not only the biggest payday available, but also the opportunity to compete for three major world titles.

AJ and Eddie Hearn currently hold all of the cards in this negotiation.

"It doesn't matter. We don't have to give him the fight. These people, as good as they are and as much value as they have, are waiting for the golden ticket."

Hearn remains hopeful that mutual agreement will be made soon despite any objections or stipulations made by Team Pulev.

"All the conversations we've had with Team Pulev have been very positive...with Bob Arum, with Ivaylo (Gotzev), with John Wirt, We make the deal, we get the fight...done. End of May, early June."

Fight fans should expect to hear an official announcement very soon.

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