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IBF orders Anthony Joshua to defend against mandatory Kubrat Pulev

Aleksandr Usyk Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

By Charles Brun: Anthony Joshua has now been ordered to defend his IBF heavyweight title NEXT against mandatory Kubrat Pulev by the sanctioning body. Negotiations must start immediately between both parties, and they have 30 days until January 11 to get a deal done. If not, then there will be a purse bid.


There’s now a very good chance that IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) will need to vacate one of his three world titles.

AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn is already in discussions with Pulev’s co-promoter John Wirt of Epic Sports and Entertainment, according to ESPN. That’s a pretty big hint which belt Joshua will be defending for his mandatory.

Pulev, 38, is the easier fight for Joshua on paper than a match against Usyk, who is young and has boxing ability. It’s not a 100% certainty that Joshua beats Usyk, and the last thing Hearn wants is for AJ to lose again. Joshua avenged his loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. last Saturday in beating him by a 12 round unanimous decision in Saudi Arabia. Right now, the boxing world is high on Joshua for him beating Ruiz, that praise will disappear if he loses to Usyk.

Joshua already ordered by WBO to defend against Usyk

This ordered mandatory by the IBF conflicts with the WBO, who already ordered earlier on Thursday for Joshua to defend against their mandatory Oleksandr Usyk.

Having dual mandatory defenses ordered by the IBF and WBO puts Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn in a bind, forcing them to choose which title to hold onto. Fortunately for Joshua, Hearn predicted this outcome months ago, and he’s hinting that he could choose to keep the IBF belt and defend against Pulev.


In a perfect world, the IBF and WBO would workout a deal for one of their mandatory challengers to go first against Joshua, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

It’s unclear why the two sanctioning bodies wouldn’t agree to a deal. If Joshua vacates their belt, they’ll likely wind up with a less popular heavyweight holding their title. That’s not good for the IBF and WBO obviously.

Joshua vacating WBO title helps Matchroom

It’ll work to Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing promotional company’s benefit if Joshua relinquishes the WBO title, and keeps the IBF belt. By giving up the WBO title, the belt will be fought over by Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) against possibly Joseph Parker. Both of those fighters are signed with Hearn.   As such, the WBO title will stay with Matchroom if Joshua vacates it or is stripped.

Joshua will go ahead and fight Pulev for the IBF mandatory, and then face Usyk or Parker in a unification fight later in 2020. It works out perfectly for Joshua, Hearn, Parker and Usyk. It can’t get any better. The WBO will stay with Matchroom, and  then Joshua will fight the Usyk-Parker winner in a unification later next year.

There’s also the possibility that Dereck Chisora could be the one that fights Usyk for the vacant WBO belt, but that’s not likely.  #14 WBO Chisora is ranked below #4 WBO Parker. The WBO will want the highest ranked contenders to fight for their belt if it’s vacated.


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