Anthony Joshua: Next fight obvious

Lee Cleveland Updated
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WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, fresh off his title-regaining win over Andy Ruiz last month, must face one of two possible opponents next.

Oleksandr Usyk or Kubrat Pulev.

Should there be any doubt in fans' minds who Joshua will fight next?

Anthony Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, met with Oleksandr Usyk’s promoter last Thursday to presumably discuss plans for a Joshua vs Usyk fight. However, Pulev, per, insists he's facing AJ next in Turkey.

Decisions, decisions...

Regardless of what happens next, Pulev and Usyk are sitting pretty at the moment.

Usyk and Pulev are mandatory opponents for the WBO and IBF, respectively. Hence, AJ will likely have to sacrifice one of those belts because he can't fulfill both sanctioning bodies' obligations at once.

So, who'll get the nod?

Answer: Kubrat Pulev


Last August, the IBF threatened to strip the winner of the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz if a) that fight doesn't take place by December 7 and b) the champion doesn't face its mandatory opponent, Kubrat Pulev, next.

“The winner of that fight (Joshua vs Ruiz 2) must ... agree in writing to face number-one contender Kubrat Pulev (with the bout to take place) on or before May 31, 2020," IBF spokesperson Jeanette Salazar told

The IBF is being quite indignant these days.

In 2018, the organization stripped Gennady Golovkin of its title for not facing a then-little known Sergiy Derevyanchenko. And last July, they stripped Canelo Alvarez of the same title for passing on the same opponent. (Golovkin reclaimed that title with a narrow points win over Derevyanchenko).

We know the IBF means business and will strip AJ in a heartbeat. But more importantly, Joshua vs Pulev makes more sense at the moment because of the perceived risk vs reward factor and the fact AJ is coming off two less- than-monstrous performances.

We saw an overconfident Joshua get knocked out in June and a gun shy version of the Brit regain his belt last month. It was a fine exhibnition of hit-and-don't be-hit boxing but AJ was from the 'Godzilla' we're accustomed to seeing. If you're Eddie Hearn, you're seeking reasons not to put Joshua in with the threatening Usyk right away.Hearns wants to buy a little time and ensure AJ's confidence fully restored before having him step in with Usyk.

And because Oleksandr, who wasn't a ball of fire, himself, in his only heavyweight fight to date, seemingly represents a real threat to AJ, Hearn wants Joshua vs Usyk to marinate a bit longer so that bout will be massively lucrative when it finally comes to fruition.

Keep in mind, the job of a promoter is to make his fighter as much money as possible while taking the least amount of risk.

Fighting Oleksandr Usyk wouldn't be a wise move at the moment unless Joshua and Co. had no choice.

Allow Usyk to win a title and enhance his name in the mainstream, and then let the hysteria for a superfight build.

Let's not forget, because AJ is such a rock star in the UK, Joshua vs Pulev will be big anyway. They will get paid regardless,. And sure, the stuffed shirts will balk but most of them will tune in too.

So yes, the more intriguing fight is Joshua vs Usyk but don't expect that to happen next.

Heavyweight legends such as Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield didn't fight worldbeaters in every title defense and we shouldn't expect AJ to.

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