With Kubrat Pulev’s most recent win last weekend, the 38-year-old heavyweight contender solidified his mandatory challenger position for the IBF world title. That belt is currently in the hands of Andy Ruiz — along with the WBA and WBO — who will defend all three belts against Anthony Joshua in a December 7th rematch.
And whomever emerges with that title in early December, Pulev will be going directly after them, forcing the fight or forcing the title to be vacated.
“Kubrat Pulev’s next fight will be for the IBF world heavyweight title,” his promoters Top Rank told Sky Sports. “If the Joshua-Ruiz winner decides not to fight Pulev, his next fight will be for the vacant IBF title.”
Oleksandr Usyk, who is the WBO mandatory challenger, would obviously like to get his shot at the Ruiz-Joshua winner, but the IBF says the sanctioning bodies have agreed that their mandatory title shot must take place next, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the WBO won’t order their own mandatory defense as well.
Because of this, there’s a real possibility that the unified heavyweight titleholder come December 8th will have a decision to make, and their hand could be forced to drop one of the major titles. Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, who represents Anthony Joshua, knows this is an issue he may need to address in the near future.
“Some belt could become vacant,” Hearn said. “Because the IBF and the WBO are both going to order their mandatories after Joshua-Ruiz Jr. Unless a deal can be done with someone, you’ve either got to do that, or vacate.”
And if one of the those major world titles becomes vacant, it’s only going to make it that much more difficult to finally crown the next undisputed heavyweight champion of the world — one we haven’t had since Lennox Lewis, about 20 full years ago.