Coronavirus hits sport: Anthony Joshua's title fight against Kubrat Pulev postponed, Premier League clubs ask players to take pay cut

The world heavyweight title fight between Brit Anthony Joshua and IBF's mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev originally scheduled for June 21 (NZ time) has been postponed.

Joshua's defence of his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO titles was set to take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London but the coronavirus outbreak has brought global sport to a standstill, with no competition taking place in the United Kingdom.

"A new date for the event... is currently being worked on," promoters Matchroom Boxing said in a statement

"We will announce any updates in due course and continue to explore the possibility of hosting this fight at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium."

Bulgarian Pulev said last month the fight would take place "towards the end of the year" due to the outbreak and that he would have no problem fighting without spectators in attendance.

It marks the second time their bout has not gone ahead as planned. Joshua was initially due to fight Pulev at Cardiff's Principality Stadium in October 2017 but the Bulgarian withdrew after suffering a shoulder injury in sparring.

Pulev had previously challenged for the IBF world heavyweight title in 2014 but lost to Wladimir Klitschko in Hamburg when he was knocked out in the fifth round.

The 30-year-old Joshua reclaimed the WBA, WBO and IBF belts with a unanimous points win over Andy Ruiz Jr in December.

Premier League reveals wage referral plans

The English Premier League has said its clubs will consult with their players over a proposed 30 percent reduction in wages and the suspended season would only resume when it was "safe and appropriate".

The league accepted that a previous target of returning to action in early May would not now happen and said on Saturday it was keeping the restart date under "constant review".

While there has been speculation about a reduced season or even abandoning this campaign, the league said it remained their aim to complete all remaining domestic league and cup matches.

"However, any return to play will only be with the full support of the Government and when medical guidance allows," it added in a statement. 

With lower league clubs facing a cash-flow crisis due to the coronavirus outbreak, the top-flight teams voted to make an advance of £125 million (NZ$250m) to the Football League (EFL) and National League sides.

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire.
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire. Photo credit: Getty

The EFL, which consists of the 72 professional clubs in the three divisions below the Premier League, said the cash they would receive from the top flight includes early solidarity payments, parachute payments and Academy Grants.

Much of the focus of talks between officials this week has been the issue of player compensation during the halt in play.

The league said its clubs "unanimously agreed to consult their players regarding a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 percent of total annual remuneration".

Talks with the players’ union, the PFA, will continue on Sunday as the two sides seek an agreement on compensation during the stoppage.

The Premier League also said it was “committing £20m (NZ$40m) to support the National Health Service (NHS) communities, families and vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This includes a direct financial contribution to the NHS and funds to enable clubs to refocus their efforts and develop significant outreach programmes to help communities, including those most in need."

Less than 24 hours after Health Minister Matt Hancock said players should take a pay cut and "play their part" in the national effort to tackle the pandemic, two moves also emerged from the players themselves.

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire asked his team mates to donate 30 percent of their salaries to local hospitals and was given backing by the squad.

England defender Maguire was among the 20 Premier League captains who took part in a call on Friday to discuss a collective response and donation with plans now expected to be developed.