Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev will likely go the rest of the month without reaching a deal for their heavyweight title fight.
The hope, however, is for enough cooperation from all involved parties for just a little more time to bring it to the finish line.
For the second time in less than a week, an extension request has been placed with the International Boxing Federation (IBF) for their pair of heavyweights to continue negotiations for a due mandatory title defense, BoxingScene.com has learned. The previously rescheduled deadline of January 31 has now been pushed back two weeks to February 14, although both sides have expressed confidence in all terms being finalized in time to avoid a purse bid hearing.
ESPN.com was the first to report the development.
The fight was first ordered shortly after England's Joshua (23-1, 21KOs) resumed his role as unified heavyweight titlist following a 12-round win over Andy Ruiz last December in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The bout avenged the lone loss of his career, suffering a shocking 7th round stoppage at the hands of Ruiz last June in New York City.
While revenge was gained, the initial defeat itself placed Joshua in a bind as he was granted the rematch with California's Ruiz (33-2, 22KOs) only on the condition that the winner would face Bulgaria's Pulev (28-1, 14KOs) by no later than May 31, 2020. It was a stipulation to which Pulev and his handlers at Epic Sports begrudgingly agreed, having initially taken its case to court in order to enforce his mandatory status and block the aforementioned unified title fight rematch.
Pulev landed in the top contender spot following a 12-round win over England's Hughie Fury in their October 2018 final eliminator. He has since added wins over Bogdan Dinu and Rydell Booker in 2019. The two performances were bookended by a brief suspension he was forced to serve after the California State Athletic Commission took issue with his conduct towards a female media member following his win over Dinu last March, which became best known for his post-fight interaction said media member, whom he kissed without consent during their post-fight interview.
The win over Booker ran Pulev's current win streak to eight in a row since suffering a Nov. 2014 knockout loss to then-World champion Wladimir Klitschko for his lone career defeat and—to date—his only shot at a major title.
It appears that his second crack at the sport's highest prize will come within the next few months, unless outside parties get to have final say.
Partially contributing to the previous delay in coming to terms for this bout was The World Boxing Organization (WBO) ordering Joshua—a 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and two-tour heavyweight titlist—to next defend against its mandatory, former World cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13KOs).
With the WBO’s order also came a deadline, as the title shot is due by June 4, 2020 according to the Puerto Rico-based sanctioning body.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua's career-long promoter has spent the past several weeks in communication with both teams while also requesting that the sanctioning bodies talk amongst themselves to figure out who should be first in line. Unified titlists are benefited a rotation system to determine the order of mandatory challenges.
Prior to his loss to Ruiz, Joshua last defended his titles in a 7th round win over Alexander Povetkin. The September 2018 bout was ordered by the World Boxing Association (WBA), with the WBO—who had Povetkin as its number-one contender at the time—also recognizing the bout as a satisfied mandatory obligation. That should place the IBF next in line, as Joshua last defended against its highest rated contender in an October 2017 knockout win over Carlos Takam—ironically, a replacement opponent for Pulev who was injured at the time and was forced to withdraw.
Usyk—who is co-promoted by Hearn and K2 Promotions-Ukraine, headed by Alex Krassyuk—has been persistent in demanding a title shot next, although the likely scenario for the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist is a time-marking clash in early spring. Hearn has teased in recent weeks the possibility of the Ukrainian southpaw heading to London for a proposed showdown with veteran trialhorse Derek Chisora.
Such a bout is contingent upon a Joshua-Pulev title fight reaching the finish line, which is now afforded another two weeks to make that happen.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox