Nigerian born, British heavyweight world champion, Anthony Joshua is set to break a boxing attendance record set by Muhammad Ali 39 years ago when he fights Kubrat Pulev in Cardiff next month.
But fans have been warned of potential travel chaos and major rail service restrictions to Wales – with Millwall also playing away to Cardiff City before the contest on October 28 and the last train back to London at 8.37pm before the main boxing event starts.
Promoter Eddie Hearn is expecting a crowd of nearly 80,000 at the Principality Stadium – which has a roof – once seating configurations have been confirmed.
That would beat the previous record of 63,315 for an indoor fight which was set when Ali fought Leon Spinks in a re-match at the New Orleans Superdome in September, 1978.
Joshua was due to come face-to-face with 36-year-old Bulgarian Pulev at a press conference at the stadium today (Monday 1pm) ahead of the official start of general sale tickets on Tuesday.
The 27-year-old Londoner’s IBF world title belt will be on the line in a mandatory defence along with his WBA and IBO versions of the crown.
Hearn said: “For some time the 02 Arena in London became a kind of spiritual home for Anthony. But since he drew 90,000 to Wembley when he beat Wladimir Klitschko last April, we know he can only fight in stadiums in the UK.
“That is how big and popular he has become.
“It obviously made sense to go to Cardiff in the autumn because there is a roof and it has staged big fights before.
“The Wembley fight sold out more or less instantly and we’re expecting the same for this one.”
“This is a tough fight for AJ because Pulev is very strong and very experienced. But Anthony wants to fulfil all of his mandatory defence obligations whenever they come up because he is determined to unify the world title. He is not interested in abandoning any belts for convenience sake.”
Joshua said: “Kubrat is game and he is ready and this has been a long time coming. But I can’t wait to get back in the ring.” Ali avenged his famous defeat by Spinks seven months earlier in the record-breaking New Orleans re-match.
Around 50,000 watched Welshman Joe Calzaghe beat Dane Mikkel Kessler at the stadium in Cardiff in 2007. But Watford’s Joshua is set outstrip the local hero.
However, long-planned rail upgrade work on four sections of line between Paddington and Cardiff means there will be fewer trains to the Welsh capital on the day of the fight and further service restrictions.
There will be no trains back to London or Bristol after the fight.There will be a rail replacement service between Cardiff and Newport when trains resume the following day. Hotel prices in south Wales are likely to rocket.
Bill Kelly, chief operating officer for Network Rail Wales said: “Network Rail, Great Western Railway and Arriva Trains Wales advise travelling fans to plan their journeys well in advance to avoid disappointment as railway engineering work will limit their journey options.
“This upgrade work was planned a year in advance and forms part of the modernisation of the railway between London and Cardiff. This will provide more seats for passengers and increase our capacity for hosting major events in the future.”
Gareth Thomas, director for Arriva Trains Wales, said: “Due to rail services being limited, we encourage visiting fans to ensure that they plan in advance for the event and consider all available modes when planning their travel.”