Ruiz Jr vs Joshua: Anthony Joshua's rematch is 'bigger than belts' so he could be forced to vacate a world title
Last Updated: 15/11/19 5:22pm
Anthony Joshua's rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr and pursuit of the most exciting fights could mean he is forced to vacate a world title, says promoter Eddie Hearn.
Joshua aims to avenge his defeat to Ruiz Jr and regain the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles on December 7, live on Sky Sports Box Office, but a queue of mandatory challengers are already lying in wait.
Oleksandr Usyk (WBO) and Kubrat Pulev (IBF) are jostling to face the winner of Joshua and Ruiz Jr.
"Some belt could become vacant," Hearn told Sky Sports. "Because the IBF and the WBO are both going to order their mandatories after Joshua-Ruiz Jr. Unless a deal can be done with someone, you've either got to do that, or vacate."
Vacating a belt and freeing himself of a mandatory challenger would enable Joshua to pursue a mega-fight with Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury, albeit without every major belt on the line.
"But the Joshua-Ruiz fight is so big, it's almost bigger than the belts," Hearn responded.
Usyk's aim of competing for a heavyweight championship, just one fight after defending his undisputed cruiserweight title, would come even if Joshua opted to drop the WBO belt.
Derek Chisora has called out Usyk, telling him to "forget the juggling balls" in reference to his unorthodox training methods.
"It's a fight that they could do, potentially even for the WBO world title next year," Hearn has previously said.
Fury, meanwhile, has replaced Dillian Whyte as the mandatory challenger to the WBC championship which Wilder holds.
The status as mandatory challenger which Whyte earned by beating Oscar Rivas was suspended by the WBC due to "adverse findings" in a UK Anti-Doping test, and he must now wait until February 2021 for his first world title shot.
Hearn reacted to Fury skipping the queue ahead of Whyte: "I don't see how they can suspend his position when he's not suspended himself by any governing bodies, or particularly by any doping agencies.
"Again, we still want UKAD to hurry up and make a statement on that fight, because that situation is almost getting boring now.
"I think the whole franchise situation, mandatory situation, it's just madness really. It's almost like a decision of convenience I feel, more than anything else."
Wilder next defends his belt against Luis Ortiz on November 23, live on Sky Sports, and is expected to face Fury again next year. But Wilder said: "I don't think [Tyson Fury] ever wanted the rematch." Wilder added that he would prefer to face Ruiz Jr than Joshua.
He said: "This is a gladiator's sport, this is a man's sport and I'm a grown man and I don't have time for games. Being that Ruiz is under the same stable as I, a much easier fight to make, and I think an even more exciting fight as well."
Joshua's undercard in Saudi Arabia features Alexander Povetkin vs Michael Hunter, Scott Quigg vs Jono Carroll and Filip Hrgovic vs Eric Molina. Former welterweight world champion Kell Brook could still be added.
"Yes, there's potential for him to go on the card," Hearn said about Brook. "We're looking at that at the moment, and also another couple of announcements and one more heavyweight fight.
"The main event will be coming to you at 9pm, UK time, so we will only be having three or four fights before that, and most of those are already set. Hunter-Povetkin of course is the co-main event. A great heavyweight fight, gearing up for a big night in Saudi Arabia."
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