Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua faces a choice of keeping one of two titles after being told TWO sanctioning bodies want immediate defenses.
The International Boxing Federation (IBF) has already stipulated number one contender Kubrat Pulev is next before Joshua went through with his redemption rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr.
Just days after his victory, Joshua has now been ordered to battle Oleksandr Usyk as the World Boxing Organization (WBO) mandatory challenger. Joshua will have six months to complete the WBO’s wishes.
This means one of those requests is impossible to follow through, and unless an exemption is granted, Joshua will be forced to give up a strap.
Promoter Eddie Hearn wouldn’t be drawn on Joshua’s potential first fight of 2020 when asked in the ring after the Ruiz win.
Hearn was pushed on the possibility of chasing an undisputed unification, which may be the only way Joshua keeps all his belts for longer than a few months.
With WBC ruler and top division number one Deontay Wilder already locked in to fight Tyson Fury again, Joshua has nowhere else to go.
At the time in Saudi Arabia, Hearn said: “Tonight is about becoming the two-time heavyweight champion of the world. We can talk about that later.”
Asked by Sky Sports in the days following, the Matchroom boss added: “It’s going to have to be quite quickly, because obviously now the vultures will be out, as I would be. I don’t blame them.
“I’ve got to speak to the IBF and the WBO and see who goes first. I think it sounds like it’s the IBF, but we’ll wait for confirmation of that.
“AJ will want to maintain the belts and if that’s the case, I think it will be Pulev, and then Usyk. I think April or May, that’s a realistic kind of date.”
Choosing between the IBF and WBO has apparently been ruled out as the latter don’t seem like they want to wait any longer.
For many, Usyk isn’t ready for that kind of step-up after just one fight at 200 pounds plus. The former cruiserweight king may even ask himself for a stay of execution until the end of the year.
If all parties agree, this may be the only way Joshua can hang onto his clutches of championships.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay