Kubrat Pulev has been earmarked as Anthony Joshua’s next opponent, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
Joshua 23-1 (21) regained the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles with a comprehensive 12-round points victory over the only man to beat him in the pro ranks, Andy Ruiz Jr 33-2 (22), in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.
Along with the belts, the 30-year-old Brit also inherited the mandatory obligations that go with them. Bulgarian Pulev 28-1 (14) is the IBF mandatory while Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk 17-0 (13) holds the same position with the WBO.
Matchroom Boxing boss Hearn said he would be looking to decide who they fight next sooner rather than later.
“It’s going to have to be quite quickly, because obviously now the vultures will be out, as I would be. I don’t blame them,” Hearn told Sky Sports.
“I’ve got to speak to the IBF and the WBO and see who goes first. I think it sounds like it’s the IBF, but we’ll wait for confirmation of that. AJ will want to maintain the belts and if that’s the case, I think it will be Pulev, and then Usyk.
“I think April or May, that’s a realistic kind of date (for Joshua’s next fight).”
Immediately after Joshua won his rematch against Ruiz Jr, WBO president Paco Valcarcel stated that Joshua would be required to defend against Usyk within the next six months.
But prior to the fight the IBF told Sky Sports their mandatory would come first.
“Ours has to come first. The organisations have agreed that the IBF mandatory would be next,” the IBF said in a statement.
Pulev’s promoter Top Rank also told Sky Sports: “Kubrat Pulev’s next fight will be for the IBF world heavyweight title.”
Meanwhile, Pulev called for the fight to take place next on Twitter.
“I want to congratulate AJ and Eddie on regaining the title and look forward to facing AJ in his next bout, as the IBF has ordered. The result is going to be different this time, I guarantee it!” Pulev, 38, tweeted.
Southpaw Usyk, 32, made his successful heavyweight debut against late replacement Chazz Witherspoon in October.
If the former undisputed cruiserweight champion doesn’t get first crack at Joshua, it is likely he will face veteran Dereck Chisora instead.
“If it is possible to fight in between and not to wait for another six months, I think Chisora will be a good fight for Usyk,” said his manager Egis Klimas.
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