Boxing: Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko demand neutral officials for showdown at Wembley

Gareth A Davies
Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko request neutral officials for heavyweight showdown at Wembley

The promotional teams for Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko are demanding complete neutrality from both the referee and the three ringside judges for their heavyweight showdown at Wembley Stadium on April 29.

The officials are expected to be announced late next week, or early in fight week. Joshua defends the International Boxing Federation crown for the third time, with the vacant World Boxing Association title also on the table for the winner.

Officials - both referee and judges - from the United Kingdom, Russia, Ukraine and Germany are to be excluded from taking part in the contest. British referee Steve Gray was the third man in the ring for Joshua's last IBF heavyweight title defence in Manchester in December, and another British referee, Howard Foster, oversaw Joshua's grudge fight with Dillian Whyte, and the Briton's last two world title fights.

For the heavyweight unification fight between Klitschko and Tyson Fury in Dusseldorf in November 2015, the referee and the three judges were also from outside the countries associated with the two boxers.

The negotiations, which include the Boxing Board of Control, who license the fight, the management teams of the two fighters, and executives from the IBF and the WBA, whose titles are on the line, are likely to conclude in the latter part of next week. It is believed that a shortlist of 10 officials has been drawn up.

"Both of the teams are studying the shortlist and will come to an agreement, as is always the case on these occasions," Robert Smith, the Secretary of the Boxing Board of Control, told The Telegraph. "We are simply mediating the process, and as the licensee of the officials, we want to get the best people in place. This situation is not usual, but nor is it particularly common, either.

Anthony Joshua: Factfile

"We have heard from the teams of both boxers, and they are very much in co operation with each other. Many British officials judge and referee world title fights in this country, and we always expect our officials to be 'neutral' in their work," added Smith. "That goes without saying. But on this occasion, we are simply responding to the requests of both parties involved in this fight, one of the biggest we have seen for some time."

Smith added: "Everything is running smoothly and we expect to announce the referee and the three judges late next week, or early in fight week."

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