Unified junior welterweight world titlist Jose Ramirez's mandatory defense against Viktor Postol, scheduled for Feb. 1 in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at Mission Hills Haikou resort in Haikou, China, was postponed on Thursday night because of the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus in China.
"It's definitely off," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN. "What happened was we needed to talk to the owners of the hotel and to have them sign off on it. The courtesy when you're dealing with an entity, especially in a foreign country, is that when you are supposed to go there and you decide you're not going, to offer them an explanation and hope they will accept it. They did. They understand. They are getting cancellations left and right. So even if we went over there and did the fight we'd be playing to an empty house because nobody is traveling to China with this virus situation."
According to Arum, ESPN had let Top Rank know earlier that it had concerns about sending its crew to China during the outbreak "and the health authorities keep closing airports because of this virus. Nobody wants to put anybody's health in jeopardy."
Haikou is a city on the Chinese island province of Hainan.
"People have to fly there from the rest of China," Arum said, "and a lot of those flights are being canceled. It's a serious situation."
Postol and trainer Freddie Roach -- who used to train Ramirez -- had already arrived in China.
Ramirez was issued a 24-hour hold before traveling. He and his team were supposed to fly to China from Los Angeles on Thursday night and now will remain in Los Angeles.
"We were told [by Ramirez manager Rick Mirigian] not to go to the airport and they would let us know in 24 hours," Robert Garcia, Ramirez's trainer, told ESPN. "I really don't know what will happen. I think more likely than not it will be rescheduled in the United States in the next few weeks, but as of right now they told us just not to take our flight and they will let us know. Because of the virus it might be too risky. We were in the gym this morning and Jose is ready for the fight."
Arum said the fight likely will be rescheduled in the United States, but was unsure when.
"We'd have to get a location to have the fight and clear a date with ESPN," Arum said. "All of those things have to be done. It's a bummer but better safe than sorry if that's what happens."
Arum has promoted boxing events for more than 50 years, and this was a first for him.
"First time I remember canceling a fight for a reason like this," Arum said.
Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs), 27, of Avenal, California, is due to make his fourth title defense since winning a vacant 140-pound belt against Amir Imam in March 2018. Ramirez is coming off his biggest win, a sixth-round knockout of Maurice Hooker on Hooker's turf in Arlington, Texas, on July 27 to unify two world titles.
Postol (31-2, 12 KOs), 36, of Ukraine, a former world titleholder, outpointed Mohamed Mimoune in Las Vegas on April 27 in a title eliminator to become one of Ramirez's mandatory challengers.