Can Joshua defend his title? Andrew Riley looks at his opposition

Given the retirement earlier this week of former champion  Wladimir Klitschko, Britains Anthony Joshua has to look elsewhere for a challenge in November. Andrew runs his eye over the two main contenders.

First in line is Cuban fighter Luis Ortiz, who has an impressive record of 23 knockouts from 27 wins, although time may not be on his side, being 38.

The WBA says Joshua and Ortiz have 30 days from 3 August to agree the fight.

He is a former WBA interim heavyweight champion, having held the title from 2015 to 2016. He had won the title in 2014, but this was nullified via no contest when he was stripped of the title due to failing a drug test.

He made his professional debut aged 30, beating Lamar Davis in under 80 seconds of the first round.

Ortiz also signed with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom sports in 2016, believing it was the fastest way to stardom, although this was later shown to be on a fight by fight basis.

It had been reported Ortiz was negotiating to fight current WBC belt holder Deontay Wilder, but with the Joshua fight likely to be a much bigger payday, and for two of the belts, this is unlikely to take place now.

Ortiz spokesperson, Jay Jimenez told Boxingscene: “We are next. We have no problem fighting on that date of November 11th in Las Vegas. Our mandatory takes precedent over Pulev’s and they know that.”

A statement on wbaboxing.com read: “According to the resolution sent on January 11th, 2017, to both parties, it was reported that the winner of the Joshua-Klitschko fight, held on April 29th, 2017, had to face Ortiz after 120 days.

Joshua has also been told he must face IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev before 2 December or risk being stripped of his belt.

However, promoter Eddie Hearn says he has documentation to show that Ortiz is next in line, then Pulev before a possible unification bout with Deontay Wilder. Wilder, who holds the WBC version of the heavyweight title posted the following on Twitter:

However, Hearn told Sky sports news:

“The IBF resolution following the Klitschko fight is a public document for everyone to see: ‘after the rematch there will be no request for a unification considered by the IBF’.

 “Obviously we now have to fight Pulev and Ortiz and it’s going to be a tough balancing act. The Pulev mandatory was called some time ago and we already have signed correspondence that if it’s not Klitschko then Pulev must be next.

“I would say right now the plan is Pulev, Ortiz then if Wilder still has a belt then AJ can relieve him of that next summer.”

“AJ is 100 per cent up for fighting Pulev, 100 per cent up for fighting Ortiz and 100 per cent up for fighting Wilder and he wants to do it in a way to try and capture all belts,” said Hearn.

“It’s going to be difficult but let me tell you this young man fears no one.”

And after all that, on the distant horizon, lurks the ever present former champion Tyson Fury…Who again announced his retirement from the sport.

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