A new contender entered the discussion this week to stage Anthony Joshua – Kubrat Pulev later this year. There’s already been talk of hosting the fight in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Saudi Arabia, the frontrunner seemingly being Saudi Arabi due confirmation from Eddie Hearn that he’d had preliminary talks with the Saudis. However, this week Ivaylo Gotzev, Pulev’s manager revealed he had found a new option in Croatia.
Outside of Britain, which would be both AJ and Hearn’s preferred venue for the bout, Croatia is a much better venue than the middle-east. The European state is much closer to home, making the logistical arrangements for the fight team and the fan much simpler and cheaper.
Holding the fight in Croatia will allow many times more home fans to attend which will create a better atmosphere for AJ, create more of an impact on British boxing going forward, and seems like a more concerted effort to put on a good show rather than simply cash in.
Saudi Arabia has a history of offering incredibly large sums to event organizers, hoping to draw the attention of fans and range their international profile. The oil-backed House of Saud, with their extreme wealth, regularly use grand spectacles to attempt to divert attention away from their oft-criticized political practices and history of human rights abuses. In fact, Hearn and Matchroom Sports have come under fire in the past for contemplating Saudi Arabia as a venue, being accused of putting greed over ethics.
Saudi Arabia is also a country that few British fans will be willing to travel to, given the extreme distance, elevated costs, and perceived cultural differences. A fight held there would do extremely well for AJ and Hearn at the gate, selling an above-average number of VIP tickets at higher prices, but the main crowd would be rich Saudi aristocrats and their international oligarch friends. Hearn frequently speaks of Joshua’s fights as a great thing for British boxing, bringing the country to the forefront of the world stage, and giving home fans amazing spectacles to attend. Holding the fight so far from home would achieve the opposite of the things he waxes lyrical about so frequently.
Croatia itself appears to be a much more suitable venue. The small Republic, famed for its long Adriatic coast, beautiful climate, great food and beer, and affordable accommodation and entertainment prices would be infinitely more appealing to the average British fan. On top of that, the venue Ivaylo Gotzev claims to have entered discussions with would be a fantastic place to hold a fight. It’s a venue with real history, a fighting pedigree, and would go down as one of the most unique venues to ever hold a boxing match.
The Pula Arena in Croatia is an ancient Roman amphitheater, the sixth-largest surviving example in the world, and the only remaining amphitheater to have four intact side towers. The Pula Arena held ancient Roman boxing matches, called pugilatus, but no modern fights have yet taken place there. Professional boxers and MMA fighters are frequently referred to as the modern-day gladiators, so holding a fight of this magnitude in a real Roman arena would make perfect sense.
Joshua and Pulev’s teams have set aside four more weeks to nail down a venue for their fight, tentatively scheduled for August or September. If by the beginning of June the BBBofC, and moreover the government, have not decided to open British venues, the Adriatic state could be the next best option. With the possibility that by August or September some limited international travel has resumed, albeit, under tight restrictions, the fight could still see a decent amount of international attendance from within the EU.
Where would you stage the fight? Let us know in the comments.