Anthony Joshua retained the IBF, WBA and WBO versions of the world heavyweight championship on Saturday night at the SSE Arena at Wembley, after knocking out Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev in the ninth round.
That victory means it looks likely that Joshua’s next fight will be a mouth-watering bout against charismatic WBC champion Tyson Fury in an all-British contest that is sure to generate plenty of headlines.
Negotiations are ongoing for the possible bout that will give the world an undisputed heavyweight champion. Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has already held “positive” negotiations with Fury's US promoter Bob Arum, with a two-fight deal being discussed. The first bout in May would be followed by a re-match in November or December.
"I think we're all in the same position. We want to move forward with the fight, quickly as well, which is good news for fans," Hearn told Sky Sports News.
There remain, however, according to Hearn, “a few small issues” that need to be resolved before the fight can be confirmed. One of those issues is that other fighters feel that they have a right to challenge either Fury or Joshua before a bout between the two champions takes place.
Fury is currently undergoing a mediation process with Deontay Wilder in order to resolve a dispute about a third WBC fight. Ukrainian former undisputed world champion Oleksandr Usyk is also in the picture.
Joshua is bound to fulfil a mandatory defence of his WBO title with Usyk lined up as the challenger. The Ukrainian is not currently yielding in his determination to face the Englishman. Hearn is set to appeal to the WBO to allow Joshua to fight Fury first.
Hearn has stated that he will be writing to the WBO to request that Joshua be allowed to face Fury first before taking on Usyk. He has said that the WBO has the chance now to be part of one of the biggest fights in boxing history.
"But [if] for any reason Tyson Fury can't contractually fight Anthony Joshua, AJ will fight Oleksandr Usyk next. For us, Usyk is a great fighter, it's a great fight, there is only one name that we're focusing on and that is Tyson Fury,” Hearn added.
WBO president Paco Valcarcel has implied on Twitter that the mandatory defence might be imposed on Joshua. If he then rejected the possible fight with Usyk, the Londoner could lose his WBO belt. Usyk's co-promoter Alexander Krassyuk has stated that he is targeting a bout with Joshua in April or May 2021. Hearn maintains that the Fury versus Joshua bout will still go ahead even if Joshua does lose his WBO belt.
Fury has asserted that he wants the fight next cannot wait to knock Joshua out. In the Joshua camp, Hearn has said that he expects Joshua to win the bout, but that both fighters are currently at the peak of their powers so the fight should be a classic. Joshua’s trainer Rob McCracken believes that his fighter is getting better all the time, even after “10 or 11” world title fights.
Fury versus Joshua has certainly created plenty of betting interest. If we look at the odds at Betway, we can see that they have made Fury the early favourite to beat the Londoner. Fury’s odds to win the possible fight currently stand at 4/9, with Joshua priced at 7/4.
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