Fears that Andy Ruiz Jr would be stripped of his hard-earned IBF title have been allayed after the stringent rankings body granted him an exception if and when he agrees terms on a rematch with Anthony Joshua.
The IBF, along with the WBA and WBO, was one of three straps dramatically removed from AJ in his shock June 1 loss to Ruiz in New York. Not known for their patience when it comes to stripping holders of titles (when deemed to not be meeting their mandatory challenger deadlines) the IBF will make the next man in line -Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev- wait for his chance even further. If Ruiz was not able to honour his obligation to box Pulev then the risk was he could be stripped, leaving Pulev to contest the vacant crown. This outcome now been temporarily dismissed by the organisation.
Anthony Joshua initially won the title in 2016 with a second-round KO of overmatched Charles Martin. The American southpaw had picked the crown up in slightly fortuitous circumstances. It had been made vacant after being taken from Tyson Fury, and thus the belt was contested by Martin and Vyacheslav Glazkov in early 2016.
Russian Glazkov fell awkwardly during the contest and suffered extensive damage to his right leg, causing him to retire after three rounds. Martin claimed the belt, but was perceived to be a weak champion. Eddie Hearn spied a belt-grabbing opportunity for his young charge, and paid big money to lure Martin over to London. It paid off, and the rest is history.
Another mandatory responsibility is also closing in on the winner. The WBO are pushing their former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk into a shot at the belt, despite the talented Ukrainian not having yet made his heavyweight debut. They will let the Joshua-Ruiz rematch play out first, and the IBF have followed suit.
Despite Team Pulev’s attempts to bypass the return bout and force Ruiz in to a defence against their man, the sanctioning bodies generally know where their bread is buttered and are opting to retain involvement in a lucrative Saudi Arabian affair in early December. That is all dependent on Ruiz and his PBC paymasters agreeing to the rematch taking place in the proposed venue. Pulev, meanwhile, has been taking time out of the sport after his uninvited kiss on a female interviewer caused ripples around the boxing world.
Kubrat Pulev will be a solid test for either Joshua or Ruiz. Assuming Joshua wins the rematch, there could potentially be a rubber match between the pair, adding further complications to the title situation. Putting that to one side, Andy Ruiz still holds the IBF belt – for now.
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