Sunday, March 26, 2023  |


Anthony Joshua-Kubrat Pulev could be enforced by IBF

Photo: Lawrence Lustig

The fans have been calling for Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko II, Joshua-Deontay Wilder, Joshua-Tyson Fury, and there was also talk of Joshua-Joseph Parker.

What could transpire, however, is Joshua against Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev, who is currently mandatory challenger with the IBF.

Joshua, the IBF and WBA heavyweight titleholder, will have dual mandatory obligations in the coming months. As a unified titleholder that is a necessary evil, but it could also disrupt the Englishman’s goal of collecting the other belts.

“There’s plenty of ongoing discussions right now regarding Anthony’s next move,” said Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn in an interview with Sky Sports in the U.K. “The more belts you accumulate, the more cluttered the situation becomes.

“It is our intention to navigate AJ to become the undisputed champion and capture every belt in the division. We certainly do not want to vacate belts, but we also want to make the best and biggest fights out there.

“We are working hard and I expect some further news next week.”

Hearn will liaise with Pulev’s promoter, Kalle Sauerland, to see if a deal can be reached, but there is the real possibility that Joshua could be stripped of the IBF belt. That same fate befell Tyson Fury shortly after he dethroned Klitschko in November 2015.

“Ultimately, the IBF will always decide themselves and they are not like some federations where you are paid money to step aside,” Sauerland told Sky Sports.

“That’s just simply not possible with the IBF, so we have to find a solution where we have a certain degree of security (with) the people who are fighting for the world title. If the request was to have a rematch (between Joshua and Klitschko) then obviously both guys would have to sign something to agree to fight Pulev on certain terms and conditions.

“The IBF, I expect to come back, later this week, early next week.”

Pulev will be eager to not only fight Joshua for world honors but also earn a big payday against the Londoner, whose stock has soared since his sensational 11th-round stoppage of Klitschko last Saturday.

Will this fight go ahead, can a deal be reached to delay the mandatory bout, or will Joshua be forced to vacate the title he won from Charles Martin in April 2016?

“I would be disappointed and I don’t expect him to vacate, to be honest,” said Sauerland.

“I think Anthony is a guy who has built himself up very much on being a very good sportsman, and he rises to every challenge. It’s also the first belt that he won as a pro and those are normally the belts that you don’t let go of. I would be very, very surprised if he didn’t fight Pulev.”


Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for and a member of THE RING ratings panel.  Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing


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