Anthony Joshua looks set to have at least three fights in the pipeline before any future contest can happen with main rivals Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury.
The current heavyweight king is already pencilled in for a battle against WBO and WBA mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin before the IBF look set to push for AJ to face Kubrat Pulev or Hughie Fury in 2019.
With two dates at Wembley Stadium set, Joshua is likely to meet Pulev or Fury in April at the National Stadium before yet another WBO stipulation is ordered.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the WBO have astonishingly already given Joshua just SIX MONTHS to face ANOTHER contender to the throne.
Currently, Dillian Whyte is number two behind Povetkin, although ‘The Bodysnatcher’ would still have to win an eliminator in order to become the official mandatory for Joshua’s crown.
The WBO said: “With respect to our WBO heavyweight champion Mr. Anthony Joshua, be advised that Joshua has 180 days counting from the date of his last compulsory defence (Povetkin) to fulfil his mandatory obligations.”
On Whyte, they added: “Be advised that at this time the WBO has yet to determine if a WBO heavyweight elimination contest will be ordered.
“Further, the involvement of our WBO international heavyweight champion Mr. Dillian Whyte in a WBO heavyweight elimination bout is uncertain.”
This all means Joshua would be expected to face a second WBO mandatory in succession if the timeline is to be followed, which doesn’t make sense and would be an unprecedented action by any governing body.
The most likely scenario would be the IBF pushing their mandatory first, which would come 18 months after Carlos Takam was counted as their stipulation due to Pulev pulling out of an October 2017 bout through injury.
Pulev or Hughie Fury in April would then potentially lead to a Whyte rematch for Joshua by the end of the year – unless promoter Eddie Hearn asks and gets special dispensation for his main star to switch those mandatories around.
Either way, with Joshua intent on facing mandatories, any future blockbuster with Wilder or Fury, who are set to fight in November, seems to be out of mind and off the table.
This is despite the WBC title holder holding the power to overrule a mandatory fight as long as both parties agree to the move.
TV problems with Wilder fighting on DAZN and Joshua on Showtime are already evident, alongside disagreements on the rematch clause. There’s also the small matter of Hearn working with Frank Warren to make a collision with Tyson Fury which could be nigh on impossible.
Add to that the fact that Joshua is content on packing out Wembley Stadium or Cardiff to stay close to his fans, a decision which pushes Wilder and Fury further out of the equation.
As things currently stand, Pulev, Hughie Fury and Dillian Whyte are in prime position to secure both places in the 2019 calendar, leaving whoever has the WBC belt out in the cold to face their own number one challenger.
A defense for Wilder or Fury is already lined up against WBC contender Dominic Breazeale, probably in the spring of next year, and would see fans forced to be patient in order to finally see an undisputed, unified heavyweight champion crowned before this decade is out.
Possible next three fights:
Povetkin – Sept 22
Pulev-Fury or Whyte – April 13, 2019
Whyte or Pulev-Fury – Sept /Oct 2019
Fury – Nov
Breazeale – Spring, 2019
Pianeta – Sat
Wilder – Nov
Breazeale – Spring, 2019
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay