Anthony Joshua will fight in 2020 with or without his supporters urging him on in the stands, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
The Brit has been out of action since meticulously picking apart Andy Ruiz in December, with his June clash against Kubrat Pulev put on hold and the hotly-anticipated ‘Battle of Britain’ unification showdown with Tyson Fury in limbo.
The coronavirus is threatening to block boxing fans’ return to arenas before the end of the year, with Hearn staging his fan-free ‘Fight Camp’ at Matchroom’s headquarters – where Dillan Whyte’s dramatic knock-out defeat to Alexander Povetkin provided a thrilling finale.
Although optimistic over a return to normality, Hearn has revealed that Joshua is ready to press ahead with his next challenge regardless.
‘AJ wants to fight this year and he will fight,’ Hearn told the Sun.
‘Hopefully by December we will be in a situation where we can have a full, or close-to-full, O2.
‘Because when you talk about no crowds causing a hole in budgets, his is around £5m.
‘But he will fight, he has to, otherwise it will be a year out of the ring. We have to get him back in 2020.
‘I would put him on behind closed doors now, yes. The numbers wouldn’t be as good but he is prepared to do it.’
Joshua, 30, is desperate to become undisputed heavyweight champion, with only the man many consider to be the world’s best over 91kg, the Gypsy King, standing in his way.
Joshua holds the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles with Fury having stolen the WBC title from the third man of the division’s fearsome trio, Deontay Wilder, in February.
However, Hearn is sticking to the original plan for now, rather than rushing into the Fury versus Joshua fight boxing craves.
‘Right now, the plan is still to fight Pulev, as he is the mandatory challenger,’ the Matchroom chief said.
‘But this situation has put everything up in the air and there are a lot of moving parts. Joshua wants to fight Fury but he wants the WBC belt more.’