Anthony Joshua took back the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titles yesterday in Saudi Arabia, defeating Andy Ruiz Jr by unanimous decision to regain the belts he’d lost six months back.
Going into the fight, there was plenty of question about what would happen with these belts in the days and weeks after it was over; particularly, Ruiz had won, there seemed a legitimate chance that one or even two of the belts — the WBO and/or IBF — might go vacant, with talk of Kubrat Pulev vs Adam Kownacki for the IBF title if that were the case.
But with Joshua (23-1, 21 KO) emerging victorious, promoter Eddie Hearn said at last night’s press conference that AJ intends to keep all three belts and face the mandatory challengers, Pulev (IBF) and Oleksandr Usyk (WBO).
“I see him wanting to take both of those fights,” Hearn said. “We’ll have to speak to the governing bodies, see who goes first. Anthony will have a nice Christmas and we’ll work behind the scenes.”
The current thought is that Pulev (28-1, 14 KO) is first in line, which Top Rank promoter Bob Arum certainly believes to be the case and can be expected to push for soon. The 38-year-old Bulgarian won an IBF eliminator over Hughie Fury in Oct. 2018, and has stayed busy this year with a pair of wins over Bogdan Dinu and Rydell Booker.
With Ruiz holding the title, the worry was that Pulev, a Top Rank fighter, and Ruiz, a PBC fighter, wouldn’t be able to come to terms. But Arum and Eddie Hearn have worked together in these situations, even with different platforms in ESPN and DAZN, so it shouldn’t be a big problem.
As for Usyk (17-0, 13 KO), the former cruiserweight king has had one fight at heavyweight, a win over Chazz Witherspoon in October. Joshua-Usyk should be easy to make when the time comes, as both are promoted by Matchroom.
So it seems AJ’s 2020 may already be mapped out, at least the ideas. If I were betting now, it’d be Pulev first and then Usyk.