Anthony Joshua fighting to get fans back into arena for his December 12 heavyweight showdown with Kubrat Pulev

ANTHONY JOSHUA is still fighting to have a few fans at ringside for his December 12 clash with Kubrat Pulev.

The 31-year-old is set to officially confirm the mandatory defence of his three heavyweight world titles will happen at London’s O2, a fortnight before Christmas, on Friday night.

And his team are still busy working behind the scenes to see if the 2012 Olympic icon can have a small section of his supporters witness his homecoming after more than two years away.

The Government has allowed ballet and theatre fans back inside venues but the DCMS are yet to confirm if even a small percentage will be allowed in the 18,000 capacity arena to support the British hero.

AJ has been training like a trojan at his favourite Finchley gym in North London, after the Andy Ruiz Jr double that started terribly in New York and ended successfully in Saudi Arabia on December 7.

A packed Wembley or Principality stadium in Wales is worth around £5m in ticket sales to Josh but – after exploring bizarre and exotic alternatives – promoters Matchroom settled on a more familiar spot.

COO Frank Smith said: “Fair play to everyone for taking these opportunities now, it was tough but we needed to get AJ boxing, a year out was long enough.

“I had a few calls about a Croatian amphitheatre and an off-shore super-yacht, that could have supposedly hosted, it but they were longshot dreams I didn’t really believe."

Tyson Fury’s promoter Bob Arum insists that if AJ comes through the 39-year-old Bulgarian – and the Gypsy King wins his December 5 tune-up unscathed – that the all-English undisputed decider can be made inside just five hours.

But Smith, thrust reluctantly in front of the camera at Matchroom’s Peterborough show this weekend while Hearn recovers from Coronavirus, admits it can only run smoothly if everyone remains sensible.

Smith joked: “300 minutes makes it sound even easier but Bob Arum promotes Pulev and reckons his man is going to beat AJ anyway!

“These fights usually take weeks and weeks to make because there are so many intricate things that go into them, that not many people understand or ever need to, because they just want to watch the fight.

“If everyone is sensible then we can make it quite quickly, because it is the biggest fight out there and it has to happen. But let’s see what happens.”

Joshua’s broadcasters Sky Sports sparked a heated racism conversation on social media on Thursday when they attributed some quotes to veteran brawler Pulev.

The network reported that, when asked in a press conference what aspects Joshua is superior to him, Pulev replied: “His strengths? I'd say he has a very powerful punch undeniably.

"What are his other strengths? His tan is better than mine."

Team AJ are aware of the story but declined to comment and SunSport did appeal to Pulev’s manager for clarity but have not yet received a response.

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