IBF, WBO Debates Joshua’s Next Opponent

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Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua’s next title defence against Kubrat Pulev or Oleksandr Usyk is set to be decided, with the IBF and WBO expected to agree a ruling in the coming days.

Promoter Eddie Hearn revealed how Pulev could be the frontrunner for Joshua as the IBF’s mandatory challenger after Britain’s heavyweight star regained his IBF, WBO and WBA titles with a rematch win over Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia last weekend.

The WBO has also called for Joshua to face Usyk, the WBO’s mandatory challenger, within 180 days and president Paco Valcárcel told Sky Sports how the ‘first step’ would be ordering talks ‘between the parties’.

But the IBF hopes to reach a resolution for Pulev to firstly receive a guaranteed title shot as the governing body confirmed it was holding a consultation with the WBO and a final decision is likely to be reached within a week.

Joshua has acknowledged that a fight with Pulev was back on the agenda after the Bulgarian was forced to withdraw from an IBF mandatory title fight through injury in October 2017.

“He comes from a great background of amateur boxing and comes from a boxing family, his brother boxes as well,” Joshua told Sky Sports, when asked to assess Pulev. “He’s soon to be one of my mandatory challengers.” Pulev lined up another shot at Joshua after defeating Hughie Fury on points in an IBF final eliminator last October and has stayed active with victories over Bogdan Dinu and Rydell Booker.
Usyk was elevated to the top of the WBO’s rankings, having moved up to heavyweight after becoming undisputed cruiserweight champion, and Joshua would relish the challenge of facing the Ukrainian.

“He’s from a great school of boxing, the sweet science of boxing, about hitting and not getting hit,” said Joshua. “I study Usyk so know his weaknesses and his strengths. That’s a competition I’m looking forward to.”

Joshua fulfilled his mandatory WBA obligations last September by stopping Alexander Povetkin, who battled to a draw with Michael Hunter in a WBA eliminator on the Ruiz Jr-Joshua 2 bill.

An undisputed title battle with WBC champion Deontay Wilder remains the ultimate ambition for Joshua, who received fresh encouragement from WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman in his pursuit of the last major belt.

“Well it’s back to the drawing board,” said Sulaiman. “Deontay Wilder has been ready to fight Anthony Joshua for a couple of years.

“Now Joshua has won his belts back there is the opportunity for a unification, and to have one champion in the heavyweight division.