Kubrat Pulev and Dillian Whyte have been ordered to fight a final eliminator for a crack at Anthony Joshua, with the former having already accepted the IBF’s mandate.
The International Boxing Federation contacted Eddie Hearn just days after Joshua’s victory over Joseph Parker to inform them of their decision regarding the encounter.
“I just hope Dillian accepts it, we have,” Nisse Sauerland exclusively told Sky Sports. “We have accepted the position and we’re ready to go.
“June could work definitely. Kubrat’s in training again, so it would work well. He’s recovered from the injury and ready to go again.”
Initially, it was thought Whyte would be more likely to fight Joshua’s WBO and WBA mandatory Alexander Povetkin to see who would claim a title shot later in the year, although the IBF route could be seen as the easier option for the Londoner.
Whyte is keen to seal a redemption attempt following a crushing stoppage by Joshua in 2016 and knows the only way to get there would be via the mandatory scenario.
Holding the WBC Silver belt hasn’t quite gone to plan for Whyte as champion Deontay Wilder is not under any stipulation by the organization and has thus far refused to even entertain the option.
That leaves ‘The Bodysnatcher’ looking at competing just once more before eventually being given the green light to face Joshua. With Pulev on board, Whyte is expected to follow as Joshua potentially closes in on negotiations for an undisputed unification with Wilder himself.
Pulev v Whyte could possibly feature as a double-header with Joshua v Wilder in the summer at Wembley Stadium, with the winners facing each other by the end of 2018.
A Wilder win is the only thing that could scupper Whyte’s plan – though, as a rematch with Joshua would then be under contractual obligation.
Both contests will be pleasing to the fans but where does that leave Povetkin?
The Russian is the obligated challenger with both the WBO and WBA, meaning a push from promoter Andriy Rybanskiy could begin a domino effect on the whole scenario.
Povetkin may well be pushed to the front of the queue and mean Joshua has to take care of the WBO and WBA’s wishes before even engaging in dialogue with Wilder.
Joshua holding four versions of the heavyweight crown, as he currently does following the Parker triumph, is certainly not going to give the Briton much wiggle room to choose who he faces next.
American Jarrell Miller had hoped to be considered for Joshua’s imminent US debut but it’s hard to see how the ‘Big Baby’ can seal his chance without winning some sort of final eliminator beforehand.
All will be revealed in the coming days and weeks in what is turning out to be a highly fascinating time for boxing’s top division.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay