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WBO orders Anthony Joshua to defend title against Oleksandr Usyk

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Joshua has officially won his belts back, and now will have to defend them.

Anthony Joshua Media Access Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Anthony Joshua is once again sporting three major world title belts, but he’s going to be pretty busy if he wants to keep them. Less than a full week after Joshua recaptured his belts by beating Andy Ruiz Jr. in their December 7th rematch, the WBO has now officially ordered Joshua to defend their world title against mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk.

Now, it was known that whomever came out of Ruiz-Joshua 2 with the belts would have two mandatory titles defenses lined up right away — with Kubrat Pulev holding the mandatory spot for the IBF and Usyk for the WBO — but it had been reported that the IBF’s title defense would come first.

But it looks like unless Joshua’s team is able to negotiate a deal to delay one of those fights, by either striking a step-aside deal with one of the challengers or getting one of those sanctioning bodies to allow another title defense to come first, Joshua will either have to vacate or be stripped of one of his belts.

As of now Joshua will have 180 days to take on Usyk.

“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.”

Should Joshua and Usyk be unable to strike a deal the fight will be sent to purse bid, with a $1M minimum bid to stage the title defense. The fight actually going to purse bid seems highly unlikely, however, as both Usyk and Joshua are promoted by Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn.