Why Anthony Joshua's attempts to unify entire heavyweight division could be thwarted by politics

Gareth A Davies
Anthony Joshua may have a problem with mandatory defences if he beats Wladimir Klitschko - Getty Images Europe

Anthony Joshua's attempts to unify the entire heavyweight division if the IBF champion defeats Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium could be thwarted by boxing politics, the Briton's promoter Eddie Hearn has revealed.

Apart from Joshua's IBF title at stake on April 29, the vacant WBA crown will also be fought over by the two giant heavyweights in front of 90,000 fans at the national football stadium. 

Hearn explained on Thursday that having the WBA belt as part of the spoils for the contest had been at the behest of Klitschko's management team.

"It was very important because it gave Klitschko some parity in negotiations with us," said Hearn. "Although that belt is vacant, Klitschko's bringing that belt to the party. Without that belt, he purely would have been a voluntary challenger to AJ's (IBF) belt."

But Hearn disclosed that victory for Joshua could create a conundrum over mandatory and voluntary defences of holding both titles as Joshua was due to fight a mandatory challenger now.

Wembley Stadium in London will host the heavyweight match-up Credit: ANDY RAIN/EPA

"We're going to get the problem of multiple mandatories coming up (if Joshua wins)," he said. "So after this fight, AJ's mandatory defence is against Kubrat Pulev with the IBF. At some point, maybe not next, but probably this year, the WBA mandatory will be Luis Ortiz."

According to Hearn, Joshua may have to vacate one of the belts.

"Quite possibly unless a deal can be done," he said. "It's not really a concern right now. I'm not really concerned about belts. I'd love Anthony Joshua to have all the belts, but as Tyson Fury found out, that's not really possible. The same thing which could happen to AJ happened to Tyson Fury. His mandatory was due, he wouldn't fight his mandatory and he lost the belt."

Fury, who defeated Klitschko in November 2015 to claim the WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight belts, was stripped by the IBF sixteen days later for failing to agree to face their mandatory challenger. Fury had no choice, as there was a rematch clause with Klitschko. Fury later vacated the WBO and WBA belts due to a mental health issue. 

"It would be the same for Anthony Joshua and there would be no exceptions to the rule," said Hearn. "If that is the case (that Joshua is stripped of any title), we'll have to make the best decision for his future."

Even a unification fight with WBC champion Deontay Wilder would not trump a mandatory IBF title challenge, explained Hearn.

"No, a unification would not trump it," he said. "Joshua has to fight Pulev next. This fight with Klitschko is effectively classed as a unification bout because you have a vacant belt on the line. This is the unification which is avoided the Pulev fight for now."

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