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Eddie Hearn hinting Anthony Joshua will face Kubrat Pulev next

Alexander Usyk Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

By Tim Royner: Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn is hinting that Anthony Joshua could be facing his IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) in his first title defense in April, and it’s possible that he’ll vacate his WBO title. Hearn says Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) would like to keep his WBO title as well, but he thinks that belt might need to be given up due to scheduling conflicts with the IBF.

Joshua giving up the WBO belt is a logical move

If Joshua vacates his World Boxing Organization heavyweight title, WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) and possibly Joseph Parker will be the ones that fight for the belt, according to Hearn. It’s not difficult to understand why Hearn is willing to have Joshua vacate his WBO title rather than his IBF belt. Usyk vs. Parker would be an in house Matchroom promoted fight between two of their heavyweights. Hearn wouldn’t need to work with an outside promoter in setting up the Usyk-Parker fight, so it would be a win-win for him.

It works better for Matchroom Boxing if Joshua relinquishes his WBO title, because Usyk is promoted by them, as is Parker. So a fight between Usyk and Parker would be a major plus for Matchroom. Further, Hearn would then look to set up a unification fight between Joshua and the Usyk vs. Parker winner. The match would attract greater interest than if AJ were to defend against Usyk straightaway in April with the Ukrainian as a belt-less challenger.

Joshua likely to defend IBF belt next against Pulev

“He won’t want to give a belt up, but he will do if he has to, but what we really need to do is establish who’s first,” said Hearn to Boxing Social about Joshua possibly vacating his IBF or WBO belts. “So if historically the IBF is first, then he’ll fight Pulev first, and then Usyk. And then maybe Usyk will fight [Dereck] Chisora in February or March, and then the winner will fight AJ or the winner will face the winner of AJ-Pulev.

“I gotta get to work on this tomorrow, because it’s pressing. He’s [Joshua] got to look at physically how he is, and see when he’s ready to go back to camp. I think Usyk-Chisora has a great chance of happening, but Chisora is a bit too far down in the [WBO] rankings for that to be for the vacant belt,” said Hearn.

Hearn not worried if Joshua loses a belt

There’s a possibility that the IBF and WBO will workout a deal so that Joshua can keep both titles, but Hearn won’t lose sleep if he’s forced to give up one. It seems clear that Joshua will vacate the WBO belt, and defend against his IBF mandatory Pulev. That’s a far easier fight for Joshua on paper as well, as Pulev is 38, slow, and not the fighter that he once was a decade ago.

The Top Rank promoted Pulev looked woefully bad in his last fight against Rydell Booker last November in Fresno, California. Pulev won the fight by a lopsided 10 round unanimous decision against the overweight 38-year-old Brooker (26-3, 13 KOs), but he was hit a lot.

The powerful jab that Pulev once had was gone, and all he could do was throw slow, clubbing shots all night. This allowed Booker to nail Pulev with uppercuts the entire fight. If Booker had any power, he would have stopped Pulev.

Usyk will fight for WBO belt if Joshua vacates – Hearn

“Actually, in a twist, it could be Usyk-Parker [for the vacant WBO belt]. But it’s quite unusual for the governing body not to accept that someone else is first, because there’s a rotation system,” said Hearn. “So you kind of have to honor that. You can’t say, ‘No, I’m not going to abide by that rotation system, but I’ve got a call to the governing bodies tomorrow.

“I’m going to say, ‘Look, who goes first? Just decide.’ As it stands, as far as the time frames we’ve been given for both, the IBF is first, but it’ll be impossible to keep to both time frames if we do the IBF first, because Joshua generally boxes twice a year,” said Hearn.

It would be bad news for Dereck Chisora if Joshua vacates his WBO title, because he was hoping to fight Usyk in early 2020. At #14 with the WBO, Chisora is ranked too low to face Usyk for the belt if it’s vacated by Joshua. Parker is ranked #4 with the WBO, so obviously he would be the one that the WBO would order Usyk to fight.

Hearn doubts Joshua will fight Wilder or Fury in 2020

“He’ll [Joshua] be fighting in April. Don’t forget that Wilder and Fury have a third fight contracted in as well,” said Hearn when asked if Joshua could face the Wilder-Fury 2 winner next. “AJ will fight anybody in the division. He’s proved it. His resume is unbelievable.

I’m tired of talking about Wilder, because I think people eventually found out that they didn’t want the fight, and we’ve been there a 100 times, and 1000 times. So we’ll see what happens in that fight [Wilder vs. Fury 2], and AJ is more than ready for the winner,” said Hearn.

WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury are facing each other in a rematch on February 22 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fury’s promoter Bob Arum is talking about the fight doing 2 million pay-per-view buys potentially on ESPN and Fox. If the fight does bring those numbers, then it’s common sense for Wilder and Fury to fight a third time.

It would be foolish on their part to walk away from that rivalry while the fan interest is at an all time high. Joshua will always be there for the Wilder-Fury winner to face in the future, but for now, it’s smart for them to fight twice in 2020.

Wilder or Fury could get 50-50 purse split for Joshua fight

“You have to understand that none of these guys are earning as much as AJ,” said Hearn when asked if the Wilder-Fury 2 winner would be given a 50-50 purse split for a fight against Joshua. “But if they won’t take the fight [with Joshua] for the right split, the only option you’ve got is to offer them a split that they almost don’t deserve or walk away. But we’re at the point where we need the fight.

“So if he [Joshua] has to give them a 50-50, which commercially. Fans might watch this and say, ‘Ah, it should be 50-50,’ and I can understand the argument. But I’m just telling you from a factual point of view, NO. But if that’s what it takes to make it, that’s down to AJ, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he said, “Fair enough, let’s just get on with it.’

“I’m not being funny. He’s done alright, AJ. There’s only so much money you can earn, and really he’s about legacy, and that’s what drove him last night to victory,” said Hearn.

Joshua and Hearn have no choice but to give the Wilder-Fury winner a 50-50 split if they want to make that fight. If Hearn chooses to be tight-fisted, and say that Joshua or Fury don’t rate an even split, then Joshua will have to be satisfied with facing other guys for less money. Joshua will still make more money at 50% against Wilder or Fury than he would in fighting other opposition, so it’s not losing proposition for him.

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