Anthony Joshua is under growing pressure to relinquish one of his heavyweight belts since regaining the collection against Andy Ruiz Jr.
The Briton came back from a devastating stoppage to defeat Ruiz in style when AJ was paid a fortune to fight in Saudi Arabia.
Joshua now has a big problem with two long-awaited mandatories ordered at the same time. The IBF want Kubrat Pulev next, whilst the WBO are pushing for Oleksandr Usyk.
Pulev is said to be the favorite, although Usyk is signed to the same promotional company as Joshua. This means a gesture of goodwill could be on the cards in order to allow the Ukrainian to fight for the title.
Usyk wouldn’t be ready for Joshua in the near future anyway and ideally needs to grow into the division before facing one of the top three. This could see Joshua give up one of his straps and briefly dilute the chances of an undisputed unification.
The Londoner has stated on many occasions since his loss that the burden of facing Deontay Wilder for all the marbles played on his mind during his American debut. This ultimately led to Joshua losing his unbeaten record.
Handing Usyk a vacant WBO title opportunity makes perfect sense for Joshua. It frees him up for a potential summer showdown with the winner of Wilder vs Tyson Fury II.
So where would this leave Usyk? – Well, the ex-cruiserweight king would then face the next in line for the vacant WBO strap, which happens to be an ex-AJ foe in Joseph Parker.
Promoter Eddie Hearn would be rubbing his hands are the prospect of featuring the pair on UK Pay-Per-View. A platform both have graced before.
The winner could enjoy a title run of their own until Joshua finally lands the winner of Wilder vs Fury II. Eventually, it could see an undisputed unification happen on Matchroom’s terms. But only if Joshua is successful.
At the end of the day, it’s a sacrifice for the greater good. AJ’s decision would allow the division to thrive as the fans await another blockbuster mega-fight after February 22nd.
For now, all eyes are on Wilder and Fury. Joshua is planning to defend his title at Tottenham Hotspur or Wembley Stadium against Bulgarian brute Pulev.