SI senior writer Chris Mannix had a conversation with Anthony Joshua about the return of boxing behind closed doors, without fans. Joshua made it clear he just wants to fight again whether it be behind closed doors or with a limited crowd; posing the question: If a big-name fighter like Joshua is willing to fight behind closed doors, will other high-caliber fighters follow suit?
Robin Lundberg: As far as combat sports go, the UFC has returned, but boxing has not. For more on that, I'm joined by our senior writer, Chris Mannix. And Chris, I know the Anthony Joshua wants to come back. However, that may be.
Chris Mannix: Yeah. I spoke to Anthony Joshua recently. And among the topics we discussed was the possibility of fighting behind closed doors. Now, for a lot of fighters in boxing, fighting behind closed doors, isn't that big of a deal. Not many boxers draw multi-million dollar gates. So if you do it with no crowd, you take a haircut. But it's not that significant of a financial hit. For a fighter like Anthony Joshua, though, this is a guy that regularly generates eight to 10 million dollar gates. This is a guy that sells out stadiums like Wembley Stadium or O2 Arena in the U.K. So most fighters on that level prefer to wait this pandemic out. But in my conversation with Joshua, he made it clear he wants his career to move forward. He's ready to fight somebody like a Kubrat Pulev behind closed doors or in front of a very limited crowd. And you have to wonder if that attitude will be pervasive. If we see Anthony Joshua decide to fight behind closed doors will other big name fighters follow suit?
Robin Lundberg: Yeah, it sort of seems like we've hit a point where a lot of athletes are starting to realize maybe this isn't going away. So we have to figure out a way to get going.
Chris Mannix: I had a similar conversation with Bob Arum, who in a colorful way basically told athletes or boxers that it's "bleep" or get off the pot. You know, when it comes to coming back in and competing in sports, I mean, boxing promoters have to put on shows. Networks like ESPN, Fox, streaming services like DAZN. They want to put on shows. They want to get fight dates. So what's going to happen is you're gonna have promoters offer these dates to fighters, put a dollar figure on these dates that will not include the crowd and tell these fighters to take it or leave it. So if we know Anthony Joshua, from what he says, and we believe it to be true - he's willing to take a significant pay cut in order to get himself back in the ring and keep that career moving forward.