By Keith Idec
The WBO hasn’t appointed a mandatory challenger for its heavyweight title.
That hasn’t stopped the sanctioning organization from informing Anthony Joshua that he’ll have to make a mandatory defense of that championship within 180 days of his September 22 fight against Alexander Povetkin, assuming the heavily favored Joshua wins that bout at London’s Wembley Stadium. Sky Sports reported Thursday that the WBO hasn’t determined whether it’ll first order an elimination match to establish the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s title.
Povetkin is ranked No. 1 in the WBO’s heavyweight ratings, but the Russian veteran is the WBA’s mandatory challenger and won’t fulfill the WBO’s mandatory obligation. Dillian Whyte, who badly wants a rematch with Joshua, is the WBO’s No. 2-ranked heavyweight contender.
“Be advised that at this time the WBO has yet to determine if a WBO heavyweight elimination contest will be ordered,” the WBO wrote in a statement issued to Sky Sports. “Further, the involvement of our WBO international heavyweight champion, Mr. Dillian Whyte, in a WBO heavyweight elimination bout is uncertain.”
Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) stopped Whyte in the seventh round of their December 2015 bout at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. In his following fight, Joshua knocked out Charles Martin in the second round to win the IBF title and ascended to superstardom in the United Kingdom.
The Jamaican-born, London-based Whyte (24-1, 17 KOs) defeated former WBO champ Joseph Parker (24-2, 18 KOs) by unanimous decision in his last bout, July 28 at O2 Arena in London. Joshua won the WBO title from Parker by unanimous decision March 31 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
Parker made a mandatory defense of the WBO title September 23, when he edged England’s Hughie Fury by majority decision at Manchester Arena. Hughie Fury (21-1, 11 KOs) is scheduled box Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs) on October 27 in Sofia, Bulgaria, in an elimination match that’ll determine the IBF’s mandatory challenger for Joshua.
The 28-year-old Joshua, who owns the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO titles, has committed to returning April 13 at Wembley Stadium if he gets past Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs). A showdown with WBC champ Deontay Wilder would be the biggest fight available to Joshua, but Wilder would need to defeat former champion Tyson Fury in November for that to happen.
If Tyson Fury defeats Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), a Joshua-Fury fight would be an enormous event in the UK. Fury (26-0, 19 KOs) must beat Italy’s Francesco Pianeta (35-4-1, 21 KOs) on Saturday night in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to move forward with the Wilder fight.
A unification fight against the Wilder-Fury winner would enable Joshua to delay making a mandatory defense of his WBO title.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.