News emerged on Monday that IBF world heavyweight champion Anthony “AJ” Joshua was set to make the latest defence of his title against the former long-time heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko.
Ukraine’s “Dr. Steelhammer” has been left on the shelf since losing his WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, The Ring and lineal titles to British firebrand Tyson Fury back in November of last year. Klitschko was slated to get a rematch against Fury, the self-styled “Gypsy King,” on two occasions on 2016. However, Fury was forced to pull out of the fight on two occasions, citing questionable injuries each time, before it had been revealed Fury had been taking cocaine while trying to deal with his mental health issues.
Due to his latest escapades, Fury had to relinquish the series of belts he snatched from Klitschko when he won a comprehensive unanimous decision in the Ukrainian’s (new) backyard in Germany. In addition, he has had his boxing license temporarily suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control, “pending further investigation into anti-doping and medical issues.”
Joshua won his IBF title after Fury had to relinquish it for opting to take the Klitschko rematch rather than defend that belt against the IBF’s mandatory challenger Viacheslav Glazov. Glazov then fought for the vacant title against American “Prince” Charles Martin, with the latter winning. Joshua then handily despatched of Martin within two rounds by knockout.
With plenty of talk surrounding Kiwi knockout artist Joseph Parker being named the IBF mandatory challenger to be next in taking on Joshua for his championship, the Klitschko news, broken by AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn, came out of left field somewhat.
“Terms are virtually there,” Hearn told BBC 5 Live. "The deal between the fighters is there. The financial terms are agreed, there was a problem with US broadcasters but that has been sorted. It is now a case of getting the paperwork and the sanctioning in order. Hopefully in a couple of days we will have the official announcement."
The rumours suggest Joshua will be defending his title against Klitschko in the Manchester Arena, the scene of Michael Bisping’s title defence against Dan Henderson at UFC 204, on December 10th. However, Hearn’s plans appear to have hit a snag.
Klitschko wants the now-vacant WBA title to be thrown into the mix alongside Joshua’s IBF crown should they fight. But, due to a hold up with the World Boxing Association, the body may not confirm these terms in time for the slated December 10th date.
While Hearn is hopeful the WBA can pull through and deliver positive news before the deadline at the end of this week, his words won’t fill many with too much hope of a Joshua – Klitschko showdown.
Talking to Sky Sports, Hearn said: “Both teams have written to the WBA to request sanctioning of our fight, but Wladimir wants the WBA belt to be on the line so until that is approved we cannot move forward. We expect news in the next few days, but in the meantime I believe both sides will look at alternative options for December 10 while we hope to get the news we need to make the fight happen."
For Joshua, those “alternative options” will most likely feature the aforementioned Parker. As for Klitschko, the picture remains somewhat murky. Though, should the WBA not deliver as expected, this will return boxing fans to the familiar position of being promised plenty, but ultimately left bitterly disappointed.
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