BACK on top of the world, WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua now has a choice to make.

Just days after winning back all he had lost in June, Joshua is in danger of losing one of the world titles he owns because mandatory challengers are knocking at his door and sanctioning bodies want their sanctioning fees. In short, the WBO want him to fight Oleksandr Usyk, their number one contender, while the IBF want him to fight Kubrat Pulev, their number one contender.

Unfortunately, because Joshua can’t be in two places at the same time, nor successfully clone himself, the likelihood is that he will be able to fulfil only one of these obligations. And if an agreement can’t be reached, if more time can’t be bought, he will presumably be stripped of one of the belts or have to vacate, thus making a complicated and splintered division even more complicated and splintered.  

To up the ante, the WBO, on Wednesday, formally ordered Joshua to face Usyk within 180 days. According to ESPN, they sent a letter via email to Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn, promoter of Joshua and co-promoter of Usyk, as well as to Joshua, Usyk and Usyk’s other co-promoter Alexander Krassyuk of K2 Promotions, alerting them to the fact the bout needs to be arranged.

“The WBO World Championship Committee hereby orders the parties herein commencement of negotiations for the above-mentioned WBO heavyweight mandatory championship contest,” the WBO wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. “Please be advised that the parties have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to reach an agreement. If an accord is not reached within the time frame set forth herein, a purse bid will be ordered pursuant with the WBO regulations of world championship contests.”

It’s unlikely the fight will go to purse bids given both boxers are promoted in some capacity by Hearn. That’s the easy part.

Far more difficult, however, is the mandatory challenger pileup and the battle between the WBO and the IBF to pin Joshua down to a next fight date. It doesn’t seem fair and it probably isn’t.

Still, if Joshua needs a shoulder to cry on, he should seek out Tyson Fury, his British rival, someone who knows more than most how a belt haul can just as quickly be ruined, ripped apart, and the gold shared around. It happened to him after beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 and the heavyweight landscape has never been the same since.

Oleksandr Usyk
Usyk is closing in on a heavyweight title to add to his cruiserweight ones

Dethroned world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jnr brought disgrace to both himself and boxing last weekend in Saudi Arabia.

That’s the view of Tyson Fury’s promoter Frank Warren, who hasn’t held back in his official column where Ruiz and Saturday’s (December 7) fight with Anthony Joshua is concerned. Disappointed by the effort, both in training and on the night, Warren questions how much of Ruiz’s desire remained after the American knocked out Joshua in June in New York.

“[Ruiz Jr] brought disgrace to himself and the sport by simply failing to prepare to any sort of required level. Just because you are a heavyweight it shouldn’t mean you don’t have an obligation to display a certain degree of athletic intention.

“Joshua must have wondered which chin he was supposed to aim for.

“Professional athletes have a responsibility to ensure a level playing field on behalf of those who pay for the privilege of watching.

“What we ended up with was a fella who basically scoffed himself out being world champion and a spectacle that suffered as a result. The fault for this lies firmly with Ruiz, who didn’t have any legs to close down a Joshua on the retreat.

“I saw in an interview before the fight with Ruiz saying he had achieved his dream. Well, if his dream was to win the titles then stuff himself stupid and lose them at the first time of asking, then his dream has become a reality.”

Ruiz’s dream didn’t just become a reality. On Saturday night, it also became a nightmare.

Anthony Joshua
Ruiz lets it all hang out (Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)