Anthony Joshua can reign supreme if he regains the world heavyweight title belts from Andy Ruiz Jr, but can also spark chaos if the gold fragments in 2020.
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Ruiz Jr defends the IBF, WBA and WBO championships in a rematch against Joshua on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office with ring-walks at 8.45pm, and a slew of future challengers are already lining up to face the winner.
Who are the next challengers for the winner of Ruiz Jr vs Joshua?
Oleksandr Usyk is the mandatory challenger to the WBO title, and Kubrat Pulev is mandatory for the IBF.
But they can’t both challenge in the next fight…
Which means the winner of Ruiz Jr vs Joshua will have “a problem”, as promoter Eddie Hearn has admitted.
“Some belt could become vacant,” Hearn said. “Because the IBF and the WBO are both going to order their mandatories after Joshua-Ruiz Jr.”
Who is in pole position – Usyk or Pulev?
The IBF, who want Pulev to challenge for the belts, told Sky Sports: “Ours has to come first. The organisations have agreed that the IBF mandatory would be next.”
And the Bulgarian’s promoters Top Rank told Sky Sports: “Kubrat Pulev’s next fight will be for the IBF world heavyweight title.
“If the Joshua-Ruiz winner decides not to fight Pulev, his next fight will be for the vacant IBF title.”
So what if the IBF belt becomes vacant?
Pulev would still be entitled to challenge for it, and Adam Kownacki is next in line in their rankings.
I thought Usyk was fighting Derek Chisora next?
That fight is being seriously negotiated, making it even likelier that Pulev is winning the race to face the winner of Ruiz Jr vs Joshua.
Chisora’s manager David Haye believes it would “make sense” for the WBO to approve a fight for their belt against Usyk, if it becomes vacant.
So Usyk and Chisora could fight for the vacant WBO title…
That’s what Chisora and his manager Haye are campaigning for. It would appease Usyk who would still get his opportunity to fight for the belt, albeit not against a reigning champion in Ruiz Jr or Joshua.
The plot thickens
Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, won his heavyweight debut two months ago and always maintained that his next fight must give him a chance at becoming a two-weight champion.
But his stance has since softened, Sky Sports were told.
His manager Egis Klimas explained that Usyk would rather stay busy rather than risk inactivity while waiting for a shot. He said: “We don’t know what happens on December 7. But if it is possible to fight in between and not to wait for another six months, I think Chisora will be a good fight for Usyk.”
Usyk vs Chisora is being targeted for the first quarter of 2020 and could still meet even if the WBO belt does not become vacant and stays with Ruiz Jr or Joshua.
What about the WBC heavyweight championship?
Undefeated Deontay Wilder knocked out Luis Ortiz last month and, in February, plans a second fight with Tyson Fury. They drew in an exciting battle last year.
This fight is expected to be confirmed but a spanner in the works could be if Ruiz Jr defeats Joshua again on Saturday.
That would mean every major belt is held by Wilder and Ruiz Jr who are both represented by the same promoter, Premier Boxing Champions, making it feasible they could fight each other to crown an undisputed champion.