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IBF orders Anthony Joshua to defend title against Kubrat Pulev

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Pulev has been the IBF mandatory for 14 months

Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev Press Conference Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

As it turns out, being a unified champion can get complicated.

Less than a day after being ordered to defend his WBO title against mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk, Anthony Joshua has received a conflicting order from the IBF to defend that title against their mandatory, Kubrat Pulev.

“Negotiations should commence immediately and be concluded by January 11, 2020,” IBF championships committee chairman Carlos Ortiz Jr. wrote in the letter. “If you are unable to come to an agreement for this bout the IBF will call for a purse bid.”

Can’t wait to see who the WBA decides to put him against. They’re probably still too busy working on Mahmoud Charr-Trevor Bryan to bother, though.

Pulev (28-1, 14 KO) technically has seniority here; he’s been the IBF mandatory since October of last year, when he defeated Hughie Fury in a final eliminator, while Usyk only officially vacated his WBO cruiserweight belt (and, per their rules, became the heavyweight mandatory) in June.

“The Cobra” is by far the less threatening and intriguing option; the 38-year-old has consistently proven himself a step above the general heavyweight rabble, but his unappealing style and lack of any ostensible threat to Joshua (23-1, 21 KO) make him anything but must-see TV.

He’s won eight straight since his wipeout loss to Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, with Fury and Dereck Chisora his most notable victims. His last effort saw him win a decision over Rydell Booker last month.

Were I in charge, I’d have Joshua wipe out Pulev on a card he shared with Usyk vs. someone better than Chazz Witherspoon, then use that to hype a mid-2020 matchup while Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury prepare for their inevitable threematch.