It is “impossible” to stage a summer fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury in the UK because of Covid crowd restrictions, says Eddie Hearn.
The promoter revealed four countries in the Middle East have put forward offers to host the historic heavyweight fight.
Middle-East venues are prepared to pay fees that will compensate for a smaller attendance given ongoing restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have to go somewhere that isn’t gate dependent,” said Hearn, 41.
“The only way we can bring it to the UK, and even then it’s a difficult conversation because of the money, is to fill up Wembley. We can’t say we will get 100,000 people in Wembley in June – it’s just a pipe dream.
“The offers from the Middle East aren’t in the hope they can generate X million in revenue at the gate.
“It’s government backed to bring the biggest fight in the world to their territory. If it was difficult to do in England before, now it’s impossible for the first fight without the certainty of fans.
“We hope we can get 5,000 or 10,000 by June but 100,000 I can’t see at all, so that rules that out.
“We get multiple offers from the same country because everyone wants to make money out of this. But there are four offers from separate countries within the Middle East.”
Hearn represents WBO, IBF and WBA world heavyweight champion Joshua.
He has already confirmed Joshua and WBC champion Fury have agreed a percentage split of the money raised from a potential fight and has spoken of his hope to stage any rematch between the pair in Britain.
He says he has now received replies to the contract he sent Fury’s US promoter Bob Arum to finalise a first fight, and that there were no “major” issues left to negotiate.
It is anticipated a deal could be fully agreed by the end of February, which would then lead to organisers visiting venues that have put offers on the table.
“When we put the contract together it took time because we were trying to work to a contract that wouldn’t come back with hundreds of comments and it didn’t,” he added.
“We expect the fight to take place in June, I wouldn’t rule out early July, but June is where we want to be.”
Between now and the end of February, Hearn says points such as which fighter will appear first on promotional posters must be agreed, as will who walks to the ring first on fight night.
“I suppose you have whose name is first, who goes to the ring first, who has the first changing room, who will weigh in first,” Hearn added.
“Jokes aside, that’s not something that will necessarily be solved in one phone call. But it will be a discussion point over the next week or so.”
If Joshua and Fury fight, the sport’s four major world titles could all be contested in one bout for the first time in heavyweight history.
Should the event take place in Saudi Arabia – as Joshua’s fight with Andy Ruiz Jr did in December 2019 – there will be inevitable criticism from human rights campaigners.
Human rights groups believe sport is being used by the country to bury their human rights record.
Amnesty International has pointed to long-standing issues including women’s rights, the treatment of the LGBT community and the restriction of free speech.
Despite criticism of the country, high-profile sporting events including golf and key Spanish football fixtures have been held there, while Formula 1 is due to stage a Grand Prix in the country in December.