Nigerian-born world boxing heavyweight champion, Anthony Olaseni Oluwafemi Joshua has found some respite coming his way over the matter of his expected mandatory title defence against Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev, as International Boxing Federation (IBF) have changed from their initial hard-line position on the matter.
Megasportsarena.com gathered that, in contrast with their previous stand that Joshua must fight Pulev before the first half of this year runs through, the IBF have now conceded that he does not have to face a firm date for the said mandatory defence, even as talks continue over a venue for the fight.
However, there is still an unspoken acknowledgement that Joshua must take the mandatory bout with Pulev, which has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, before he can meet fellow-British rival, Tyson Fury in an undisputed heavyweight championship fight in 2021.
Although financial terms for the much-anticipated fight with Fury have already agreed, World Boxing Organization (WBO) mandatory challenger, Oleksandr Usyk is also breathing down Joshua’s neck; while World Boxing Council (WBC) number one contender, Dillian Whyte, who is also from Britain, is due to challenge for Fury’s belt in February 2021, though ‘The Gypsy King’ already has a third fight with USA’s Deontay Wilder arranged for him already..
Joshua, though, now has less pressure standing against him, after IBF stated: “Given the current circumstances we are being flexible. It is difficult to put a firm date on mandatory obligations at the moment. Everyone is working hard to get things going with boxing again and hopefully everything will be on track soon.”
‘AJ’ and Pulev had originally been scheduled to tango this month at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, which would have been the first fight on British soil in two years for the IBF, WBA and WBO champion.
However, the 2012 Olympic Games gold medalist’s promoter, Eddie Hearn is now looking at the prospects of staging the fight at a “smaller venue” in the UK, with a potential date in November, but ruled out the possibility of staging it behind-closed-doors.
Hearn told Sky Sports: “Our absolute priority is to stage the fight in the UK. It would be great for sports coming back, and businesses coming back, to have a world heavyweight title fight taking place on these shores.
“We’ve had interest from the Middle East, the Far East, yet to receive anything official from Croatia but they have shown interest too. But we’d like to do it [in the UK]. We are starting to look at venues that are smaller.
“There is the possibility of us staging the AJ fight in the UK. I don’t think it will be behind closed doors. If we can get some kind of number together [for a potential crowd] we can create an exclusive event to keep this fight in the UK.”