Anthony Joshua's plans to unify the division by facing Deontay Wilder may have to be put on hold after the WBA ordered him to take on mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin by September.
Joshua [21-0, 20 KOs] won the WBA strap last year, knocking out Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley to win the then-vacant belt -- but he now looks set to have to defend both that belt as well as his IBF and newly claimed WBO title against the Russian.
Povetkin featured on the undercard of Joshua's bout against Joseph Parker last weekend, knocking out David Price in brutal fashion before Joshua defeated Joseph Parker, and now Povetkin looks set to get a shot at reclaiming the WBA belt that he lost to Klitschko back in 2013.
Povetkin is now a mandatory contender of @anthonyfjoshua
He was appointed by WBA. Now there are 150 days to arrange the fight, it must take place. Before the fight with Sasha, Joshua has no right to fight with anybody else.We have 30 days to negotiate@EddieHearn pic.twitter.com/abLOV55hew
— World of Boxing Rus (@worldofbox) April 6, 2018
"The WBA called the mandatory yesterday for AJ to face Povetkin next," promoter Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports. "We have a 30 day window to negotiate -- at this stage it means it's very likely Anthony's next fight will be between [Deontay] Wilder or Povetkin."
With a mandatory challenge being set, Joshua and his camp will either need to fight Povetkin next, agree a step-aside deal -- which could see the Russian face Dillian Whyte, or vacate his WBA belt. However, Povetkin says that he only has eyes for Joshua.
"I am an obligatory challenger for the championship fight," Povetkin said on the prospect of facing Joshua. "I really look forward to the moment when I can fight with the strongest in the world.
"Now Anthony Joshua has four belts. I really want this fight, but I do not even want to think about proposals to box with other rivals "