ANTHONY JOSHUA next fight is currently one of the most searched terms on Google, and Alexander Povetkin today emerged alongside Deontay Wilder as the most popular result after the WBA ordered the champion’s team to begin negotiations with their mandatory contender.

Anthony Joshua, who also holds the IBF and WBO titles, is understood to prefer a unification showdown with WBC champion Wilder instead, and the Briton’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, is currently in talks with the American’s numerous representatives hoping to strike a deal to make one of the most wanted fights in boxing a reality.

Hearn today confirmed to Boxing News that for those talks to be a success, the WBA would also have to accept Team Joshua’s “application for exception” in regards to not fighting Povetkin next. The current situation, however, stipulates that Joshua must agree terms within 30 days and the fight must take place within 150 (before the end of August).

“Now there are 150 days to arrange the fight, it must take place,” Povetkin’s promoters, World of Boxing, tweeted. “Before the fight with Sasha [Povetkin], Joshua has no right to fight with anybody else. We have 30 days to negotiate.”

Should the application for exception not be granted, Joshua’s desire to simultaneously wear all four belts will almost certainly mean Povetkin will be his next opponent. Povetkin is also the WBO No.1 contender, so a bout with the 38-year-old would also allow Joshua to keep that organisation happy, too.

The Russian – who achieved infamy after twice being caught taking Performance Enhancing Drugs – thumped David Price into defeat in five rounds on the undercard of Joshua’s points win over Joseph Parker, but not before a spirited effort from the Scouser saw Povetkin [pictured below] take a count in the third.

Alexander Povetkin

There was some controversy before the bout when Boxing News revealed that neither fighter had been tested for PEDs during the build-up, and Povetkin’s reputation within the industry is certainly tainted as a consequence of his past.

The WBA and WBO have forgiven and forgotten, though. The IBF, too, have the Russian highly ranked (No.5) whereas the WBC, after doing the right thing and removing Povetkin from their ratings in 2016 following his latest failed test, have recently installed him as their No.4 contender.

Suffice to say, while Povetkin may end up being Anthony Joshua next fight, a bout against the Russian would highlight how difficult the governing bodies will make it for complete unification to occur, and how easy they make it for drug cheats to prosper.