Anthony Joshua could be a belt lighter by the time the unified heavyweight champion attempts to face WBC ruler Tyson Fury in the next twelve months.
AJ was warned by the World Boxing Organization that their mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk must fight for the title next, even before talks opened up with IBF stipulation Kubrat Pulev.
Now, it seems the WBO is willing to let the IBF go first as Joshua vs Pulev negotiations have been ongoing for some time. There was even a date and venue set before the coronavirus outbreak struck.
But the fact promoter Eddie Hearn is yet to even acknowledge Usyk’s position in line as the Matchroom boss plots an undisputed battle with Fury next year, could be detrimental to the status of the blockbuster.
Everyone in the UK wants to see every strap on the line. And unless Joshua steps up to the plate and meets Usyk head-on, the WBO is seemingly ready to act.
Therefore, Joshua could be stripped unless Usyk is given assurances that his opportunity will follow the Pulev fight.
Fury has two encounters lined up anyway, so there’s no excuse for Joshua not to face Usyk, provided he gets through a tricky-looking match-up with the Bulgarian.
Previously, Joshua had announced his intention to potentially drop one belt early in 2020. But with Fury defeating Wilder, that all changed.
He had said: “The one that I don’t fight (out of Pulev and Usyk), I will fight eventually. In the heavyweight division, everyone is welcome to challenge so even if it doesn’t happen the first time, one of them will fight me in the future.
On Usyk specifically, Joshua added: “We mean business. We want to fight the best. I go to those meetings. I let people know that I’m about that life.
“He’s the best cruiserweight that we’ve ever seen. I want to compete with him (when he) comes up to heavyweight. People say ‘he’s a cruiserweight’ but look at what Evander Holyfield did – a phenomenal fighter.
“We will end up fighting anyway. Who’s to say that Usyk can’t go on to do great things. But before we see that potential he has to come through the big boys of the division. I’ll be the first to challenge him (when he’s champion).”