Oleksandr Usyk has mandatory orders piling up in the heavyweight division. A startling notion compared to that of the man he defeated twice – Anthony Joshua.
It’s not the first time the top division’s title situation has been seen as the joke of boxing. But the lack of stipulated title defenses by Joshua, in that sense, is ridiculous.
Despite several orders by sanctioning bodies in his years as champion, you can count on one hand the number of times Joshua has put his straps on the line against the number one contender.
Winning the IBF version in 2016 against Charles Martin, Joshua quickly began adding to his divisional collection, not before making two defenses of the IBF belt against voluntary opposition.
A lack of mandatory fights
Picking up the WBA and IBO titles against Wladimir Klitschko in 2017, AJ was on a roll, quickly earning his promoter’s push as one of the best at 200 pounds plus.
Finally ordered to make a mandatory IBF defense, Joshua was due to be pitted against Kubrat Pulev in late 2017. That fight never happened. It was over three years until it finally took place.
Initially, Eddie Hearn had Carlos Takam on standby to take the Bulgarian’s place. However, it can’t be classed as mandatory.
Five months later, Joshua defeated Joseph Parker for the WBO and had four belts in his possession over two years. But none of those bouts were stipulated by any sanctioning body.
All those fights were hand-picked by Joshua and his team. Unlike Usyk, who has been told he must fight the WBA, IBF, and WBO challengers in succession.
Between winning the world title in March 2016 and September 2018 – a full thirty months, the Londoner made zero mandatories.
Add to that. He opted out of talks with Deontay Wilder to pursue a mandatory with Alexander Povetkin. It’s unbelievable how the former ruler got away with it for so long.
Since the Povetkin fight and until he fought Pulev and Usyk as mandatory, Joshua fought no mandatory bouts for another two years.
Andy Ruiz Jr. was another substitute. Little did anyone know he’d end up dethroning the 30-year-old. A rematch would then take place to get Joshua his hoard back.
But neither of those fights was mandated.
Anthony Joshua’s five-year reign
Three mandatories occurred in five and a half years. That includes a win over Pulev in a fight that still had to be pursued to the limit by the Bulgarian’s team. At the same time, Usyk is expected to have three in one year.
It’s quite an unprecedented scenario and shows how little those number-one positions mean.
Increasingly, ranking systems are becoming obsolete. Fighters grab a number one spot but must keep battling until the inevitable happens, and they lose.
Take Joe Joyce’s loss against Zhilei Zhang on Saturday night. Joyce should have gotten his chance between winning the WBO interim title and losing to the Chinese juggernaut.
Organizations need to start pushing through their rules, or anyone with power in the sport will be able to divert their attention elsewhere, seemingly for as long as they want.
Joshua’s complete title defenses
Dominic Breazeale [Voluntary]
Eric Molina [Voluntary]
Wladimir Klitschko (Unification)
Carlos Takam [IBF Mandatory replacement]
Joseph Parker [Unification]
Alexander Povetkin [WBA Mandatory]
Andy Ruiz Jr. (Voluntary)
Andy Ruiz Jr. (Voluntary)
Kubrat Pulev [IBF Mandatory]
Oleksandr Usyk [WBO Mandatory]
Phil Jay is an experienced boxing news writer. Follow on Twitter @PhilJWBN. Follow WBN: Facebook, Insta, Twitter.