With Anthony Joshua back on top of the heavyweight division, he’ll now have to deal with the additional responsibilities that come with holding multiple titles: dealing with multiple mandatory challengers.
The WBO has ordered Joshua, who holds the WBO, WBA and IBF titles after beating Andy Ruiz Jr. on December 8, to fight mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk. The WBO sent a letter via email to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who promotes Joshua and co-promotes Usyk, as well as to Joshua, Usyk and Usyk co-promoter Alexander Krassyuk of K2 Promotions. The two sides have until January 10 to complete a deal or else a purse bid will be issued and the fight must take place before June 4.
A purse bid for that fight would require a minimum bid of $1 million, but will easily be eclipsed in a purse bid. The WBO also stated that either side can request a purse bid at any point during the negotiation period.
Usyk, who once ruled as the undisputed cruiserweight champion, moved up to heavyweight earlier this year and petitioned the WBO to name him the mandatory challenger to the heavyweight title. The WBO granted Usyk his request after Usyk was named the “Super Champion,” which gives him the ability to make such a request. In Usyk’s pro debut back in October, he defeated Chazz Witherspoon in the main event of a Matchroom Boxing card in Chicago.
The ruling presents an issue for the Joshua camp as the IBF had previously ordered the Ruiz vs. Joshua 2 winner to fight mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. The IBF has shown in the past that it is more than capable of stripping champions of their belts for not complying with a mandatory title defense. Such was the case earlier this year when the IBF stripped Canelo Alvarez of the middleweight title for not fighting mandatory challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
Pulev has been the mandatory challenger for the IBF title since October 2018 when he defeated Hughie Fury in a title eliminator in Bulgaria. Since then, Pulev scored wins over Bogdan Dinu and Rydell Booker on Top Rank cards this year.
If Joshua were to forgo the WBO order and the title became vacant, it is more than likely that the two highest-ranked available contenders would be ordered to fight for the title. In the WBO’s case, that would be Usyk and Joseph Parker. Tyson Fury is ranked ahead of Parker in the WBO rankings, but Fury is fighting Deontay Wilder for the WBC title in February 2020. In the case of the IBF, the two highest-ranked available contenders would be Pulev and Adam Kownacki should that belt become vacant.