By Rick Reeno
BoxingScene.com has been advised that Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) has been ordered by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) to make a mandatory defense against Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria.
Joshua's mandatory defense was due on or before January 9, 2017. He was given an exception to face Wladimir Klitschko in April, with the vacant WBA, IBO titles at stake. Joshua defeated Klitschko by way of a eleven round stoppage.
The sanctioning body then pressed on Joshua to face Pulev, but the unified champion filed for another exception to fight Klitschko in a rematch in the fall. Klitschko had the contractual right to force an immediate rematch.
The IBF ultimately approved Joshua's request to have a fall rematch with Klitschko.
But on Thursday, Klitschko announced his retirement from the sport of boxing.
Upon learning that Klitschko retired, the IBF immediately ordered Joshua and Pulev to begin immediate negotiations for a deal.
"The Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko exception was approved with the condition that the winner must fight the IBF leading available contender in a mandatory defense of the IBF/WBA heavyweight title. The IBF found out today that Klitschko has retired. Therefore, under the conditions of the exception, Joshua must fight the IBF mandatory defense next," stated IBF Championships Chairman Lindsey Tucker.
"The leading available contender is #2, Kubrat Pulev. Negotiations should start immediately and be concluded by September 3, 2017. If you are unable to reach an agreement by September 3, 2017, the IBF will call for a purse bid to determine who will promote the bout, when and where."
Joshua now finds himself in a tight spot - because the World Boxing Association (WBA) also issued an order on Thursday, which directed him to make a mandatory defense against Luis Ortiz.
Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, has already stated in several interviews that Pulev is the likely next opponent. A date of November 11th is being targeted, possibly for Cardiff.