IT’S all well and good collecting belts, holding on to them and posing with them, but, at some point, each of those belts must be defended.
And such is the ridiculous nature of boxing, a different number one contender will be allocated for each belt, and if a particular belt isn’t defended against a particular challenger within a designated time period, guess what? You lose the belt.
This backwards process often turns a unified champion into a single champion, and could, if the WBO, the WBA and the IBF keep playing by their own nonsensical rules, strip Anthony Joshua of his three world heavyweight titles at a time when he really needs them.
Joshua, set to defend them all against WBA mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin on September 22, will soon find himself under pressure to do the same against his IBF mandatory challenger – either Kubrat Pulev or Hughie Fury – and has today been informed the WBO are getting in on the act, too.
A WBO statement to Sky Sports read: “With respect to our WBO heavyweight champion Mr. Anthony Joshua, be advised that Joshua has 180 days counting from the date of his last compulsory defence (after the Alexander Povetkin bout) to fulfil his mandatory defence obligations.”
Povetkin, the WBO number one, is getting his shot at Joshua on September 22 having powered his way up the WBA’s rankings. This means Joshua’s next WBO mandatory defence will be against either Dillian Whyte, a man he knows only too well, or whoever Whyte is ordered to fight in a final eliminator. (Odds on it being American Jarrell Miller, anyone?)
On Whyte, the WBO added: “Be advised that at this time the WBO has yet to determine if a WBO heavyweight elimination contest will be ordered.
“Further, the involvement of our WBO international heavyweight champion Mr. Dillian Whyte in a WBO heavyweight elimination bout is uncertain.”
We now have not one, not two, but potentially five or six reasons why Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, the current WBC heavyweight champion, will be kept apart for the foreseeable future. The first is Povetkin, the next is either Pulev or Fury, and after that it’s Whyte, and then, if all the pieces fall into place, there’s every chance Miller, a man being groomed for the opportunity, welcomes Joshua to an American audience towards the end of 2019.
And that’s just on Joshua’s side. Wilder, too, will inevitably have a WBC mandatory headache of his own at some point, and is due in Belfast this weekend to cast an eye over Tyson Fury, the former world heavyweight champion he hopes to face in November or December.
So many heavyweight fights, so little time, the real question is this: who’s going to enforce the one heavyweight fight the world wants to see?
Some better news: it seems a fight between unified cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk, a Ukrainian who’ll soon be up to his eyes in mandatory obligations, and Tony Bellew, the former WBC cruiserweight champion, is actually going to happen.
By all accounts, their respective camps have held discussions and it would appear Usyk and Bellew have their hearts set on a fight this year, perhaps in November.
“The first meeting was good, and it looks inevitable at this stage,” Bellew told Sky Sports. “Things can change, though. You just don’t know how it all lands. We’ll see. We haven’t agreed a venue yet and other things, but it’s looking likely now.
“It is moving in the right direction. We’ve got to agree something and get it written down on paper and we’ll take it from there. Eddie (Hearn, promoter) is happy, I am happy and there has been no major demands on my part, as I don’t feel there needs to be.
“It has to be done this year. This year is my last year in the sport. I won’t be fighting in 2019; I’m done at the end of this year. I should’ve been done in March this year.”
Bellew’s focus is clearly narrowing.
Originally, after stopping David Haye inside five rounds in May, the 35-year-old Liverpudlian had a shortlist of three potential opponents deemed worthy enough to stave off retirement for a little while longer. On the list were Usyk, former light-heavyweight champion Andre Ward, and former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. However, this shortlist, and indeed the time frame in which this final fight must happen, has since shortened further.
Now Bellew’s talking only of Usyk. Moreover, whether he wins, loses or draws, whether he fights or doesn’t fight, he’s saying he’s done with it all in 2018. Seems sure of it, too, so enjoy him while you still can.