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IBF green lights Anthony Joshua rematch with Wladimir Klitschko

Anthony Joshua Wladimir Klitschko

By Jeff Aranow: The IBF won’t stand in Anthony Joshua’s way from fighting Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch, as long as he does it by December 2. Joshua is supposed to be defending his IBF heavyweight title against his mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev next if he wants to keep the belt. However, the International Boxing Federation has decided to let Joshua fight Wladimir in a rematch FIRST before he defends the IBF title against Pulev.

The condition for the IBF letting Joshua fight Wladimir next is that he needs to defend the IBF belt against Pulev in his next fight. Where things could get a little bit sticky is if Wladimir beats Joshua in their rematch. Wladimir has already knocked out Pulev 3 years ago in a 5th round knockout. It’s hard to believe that Wladimir would want to Pulev a second time. As such, we could see Wladimir requesting that the IBF let him swerve Pulev so that he can fight Joshua in a trilogy, which would surely make a lot of money.

It would be tough for the IBF to turn Wladimir down, because if he vacates the IBF belt, the IBF will be stuck with a less popular heavyweight scooping up their IBF title. Wladimir has made it clear that he’s only interested in fighting Joshua in a rematch if he opts to continue his boxing career. That’s good news for Joshua, because he really needs a second fight with Wladimir in order to increase his popularity.

That fight did more for increasing Joshua’s popularity than all of his previous 18 fights in the pro ranks. Joshua has only been matched against 2 semi-decent heavyweights besides Wladimir in Dillian Whyte and Eric Molina. Joshua was staggered by Whyte, and he gassed out in their fight in 2015. Joshua still won the fight, but he already showed at that point in his career that he’s going to have stamina issues throughout his career.

Wladimir has now lost his last 2 fights to Joshua and Tyson Fury. Wladimir was a heavyweight champion for 10 years before losing to Tyson Fury in 2015. Wladimir then burned up a year of his career waiting on a rematch with Fury that never took place. Instead of Wladimir taking a tune-up fight to get the rust out, he went straight into a big money fight against Joshua. It was a risky thing to do for Wladimir, but at 41, he obviously didn’t want to waste time with tune-up fights. Even a tune-up could be a risky proposition for Wladimir given his advanced age and the long period of time he’d been out of the ring.

Klitschko, 41, was stopped in the 11th round by Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) on April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The fight was televised by Sky Box Office PPV, and it brought in big numbers. Wladimir had a rematch clause in his contract with Joshua. However, Wladimir still hasn’t come out and said that he will exercise the rematch clause. We’ve heard Wladimir talk about how happy he is in losing the fight to Joshua, because he’s been getting a lot of love from boxing fans from all over the world. However, Wladimir has been dragging his feet in exercising the rematch clause, which could mean that he’s conflicted about taking the rematch.

It’s understandable why Wladimir might not want to fight Joshua again. If Wladimir retires off of the Joshua fight, he can leave boxing with his head held high, given that he came close to beating him. Wladimir clearly exposed Joshua in a major way in their fight. If Wladimir does take the rematch with Joshua, he could lose the fight and get knocked out badly. Things wouldn’t be so rosy for Wladimir. The love that he’s getting from boxing fans would disappear overnight, as the fans would likely see Wladimir as a fragile-chinned old guy that needs to retire from boxing before he gets hurt.

The venue for the Joshua-Klitschko II rematch hasn’t been decided yet by Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn.

“We’ve had so many offers – Nigeria, Dubai, America, and also we have the opportunity of Cardiff here in the UK,” said Hearn to “Financially, Cardiff’s not the best choice, but also at the same time, if it’s not broke don’t fix it, and we have that mentality with ‘AJ’ moving forward.”

Staging the Joshua-Klitschko rematch in the UK makes the most sense, because Joshua is a big star over there. His boxing fans are there in the UK. If the fight is staged in Nigeria, Dubai or the U.S, it’s going to be a hardship for Joshua’s British fans to make that long trip to go over to those areas in high numbers in order to support him. Hearn wants to turn Joshua into a star in the U.S, but he doesn’t seem willing to have him fight in front of smaller crowds in that country than what he’d bring in if he stays in the UK and continues to fight consistently over there.

Pulev has earned the right to challenge Joshua for the IBF title after his win over Dereck Chisora. It’s not a great fight for Joshua, but that’s what he’s going to have to deal with from time to time as long as he holds down the world titles. Joshua probably doesn’t need a world title at this point in order for him to continue to gain boxing fans. Joshua is above the titles. He just needs to make sure he beats Wladimir in the rematch, and then continue to fight the best fighters he can each time out. Holding down the IBF and WBA titles is going to put Joshua in position where he has to defend against guys that don’t bring much to the table in terms of boxing fans and talent.

If Joshua beats Wladimir, then he’ll need to make a decision whether it’s worth it to keep the IBF title and the other title. I looks like Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn wants him to collect world titles in order to validate him in the eyes of the boxing public. It sounds better if Joshua is announced as a world champion than just a regular fighter, I guess. It just gets bad if Joshua is going to be stuck defending against guys that aren’t all that great, and who did little in the first place to earn a title shot. I think the boxing public would rather see Joshua fight guys like Deontay Wilder, Luis Ortiz, Lucas Browne, Daniel Dubois, Joshua Parker, Tyson Fury, Hughie Fury and Dereck Chisora.

If Joshua loses to Wladimir I their rematch, it’s going to open up a lot of questions whether the British heavyweight was hyped too quickly by his promoter Eddie Hearn and the boxing public in the UK. After all, Joshua’s gold medal from the 2012 Olympics in London, England was a very controversial one with a lot of boxing fans feeling that Joshua was beaten by Erislandy Savon and Roberto Cammarelle. Joshua lucked out in winning the gold medal. Obviously, fighting in his home country of England in the Olympics had to help him win the fights against Savon and Cammarelle. Before Joshua’s fight with Wladimir, the last fight against a good heavyweight had been in 2012 against Cammarelle. As a pro, Joshua has been matched very carefully by Hearn in electing not to put him in with tougher opposition like Wilder, Luis Ortiz, David Haye and Joshua Parker.

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