Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev could air on ESPN Boxing in the United States, according to Pulev’s co-promoter Bob Arum.
Joshua’s recent bouts against Alexander Povetkin in 2018 and Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019 (twice) have been broadcast in the United States by streaming platform DAZN – which has a reported eight-year $1billion contract with Joshua’s promoter Matchroom Boxing (Eddie Hearn).
But Arum – whose Top Rank has a contract with ESPN – says that network is very much in play and could air the bout on a Saturday afternoon in December. He says it is also likely to fetch a higher price now the college football season in the United States appears likely to be scuppered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Interviewed by Kugan Cassius for IFL TV, the 88-year-old Hall of Famer explained: “I talked to Eddie and he’s gonna look to put it on, hopefully in December, with limited spectators. I told him good news, we can get a very nice price in the afternoon, Saturday afternoon, with ESPN, because it looks now like the college football season – which as you know is huge in the United States – will not take place.
“So that will help with the finances, because obviously the gate will not be the same as it would have been under normal circumstances. Hopefully the pay-per-view in England will not be affected because it will be regular English time.
“And then if we can get a good amount from ESPN, then the chances of the fight happening are increased.”
Obviously if the bout were to air on ESPN in the United States it would leave DAZN out in the cold, but Arum explained what he believes would be a viable solution.
“We’d have to work out a situation where the foreign rights would go to DAZN, they would buy whatever foreign rights they wanted, and the US territory (US/Canada/Puerto Rico and I think India also) that would be ESPN. But the ESPN territory is not as expensive as DAZN. So there is a way to compromise where ESPN as I say is limited and DAZN buys the rights for the rest of the world.”
DAZN of course had been planning a global rollout of its product earlier this year with more than 200 territories referenced. That was delayed by the pandemic but is believed to now be back in play with a launch expected in the coming months.
Joshua vs Pulev had initially been scheduled for June 20 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but was delayed due to COVID-19. Hearn has been steadfast in saying the fight will happen this year – even if it has to take place behind closed doors. He does not want Joshua’s absence from the ring going on for longer than one year. He last fought in the rematch with Ruiz Jr in December 2019.
Joshua is a heavy 1/8 betting favourite for the bout while the now 39-year-old Pulev (28-1) – the IBF’s mandatory contender – is around the 5/1 mark. Joshua will put his IBF, WBA and WBO belts on the line against a man who has fought at world-title level just once before – a crushing fifth-round knockout defeat by Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014.