The World Boxing Association has finally sanctioned a heavyweight title bout between former champion Wladimir Klitschko and reigning IBF title-holder Anthony Joshua, but the decision came too late for the showdown to take place this year.

Joshua and Klitschko had been locked in negotiations over a mouth-watering contest since Tyson Fury’s much documented personal battles forced his scheduled re-match with Klitschko to collapse.  However, with Klitschko insistent that the WBA ‘super’ title, which he lost to Fury in 2015, be on the line negotiations between the fighters stalled, leading IBF champion Joshua to announce he would instead defend his own title against Eric Molina in Manchester on December 10th.

Days after that announcement however, the WBA agreed to place its ‘super’ title on the line during a future matchup between Klitschko and Joshua.  Should Joshua overcome Molina in December a deal is already in place for the Briton to face Klitschko.  It is likely that the highly anticipated matchup between the explosive Joshua and Klitschko, the long-time king of the heavyweight division, will take place around the spring of 2017.

Ukrainian Klitschko had been scheduled to challenge Britain’s Fury for the WBA, WBO and IBO belts which he had lost to Fury in 2015 but Fury’s battles with first injury and then mental health issues, along with a failed drug test, saw the rematch postponed and then abandoned as Fury relinquished his titles and was stripped of his boxing license.

With the collapse of the Fury-Klitschko confrontation, and with no opponent named for a confirmed December outing, IBF champion Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn was quick to declare his fighter’s interest in facing the legendary Ukrainian.  However, as the WBA stalled in sanctioning the two meeting for their title it was announced that the 2012 Olympic Gold medallist would instead defend his IBF belt against America’s Molina at the Manchester Arena.

The WBA ‘super’ title is awarded by the boxing organisation in recognition of a boxer holding multiple world titles, recognising the champions of other promotions.  On the same day the organisation announced its approval of the ‘super’ heavyweight title fight it announced that veteran Shannon Briggs would face Australian Lucas Browne for the ‘regular’ heavyweight title.  Should Briggs be successful it would be his second world title reign at the age of 44.

With the prospect of a huge showdown between Joshua and Klitschko on the line most fight fans will be hoping to see Joshua come through his bout with the dangerous Molina unscathed.  On a packed card in Manchester former heavyweight title contender Dereck Chisora will take on Dillian Whyte in a domestic showdown while Luis Conception defends his WBA super-flyweight title against Kal Yafai.  Also on the bill is Ireland’s Katie Taylor. Like Joshua, Taylor won Olympic Gold in 2012 and is expected to make her second outing as a professional, having signed with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing in October, a deal which the promoter called ‘significant’ for the future of boxing.

December 10th is set to be a significant date in the heavyweight division with the WBO confirming its version of the title would also be contested on that day. Undefeated New Zealander Joseph Parker, who had looked a likely opponent of Joshua, will face Andy Ruiz Jr. in Auckland for the vacant title. Ruiz Jr. also boasts a perfect record from his 29 fight professional career. The winner of that bout is then expected to come face to face with Britain’s former world champion David Haye, although Parker is still angling for a heavy-hitting showdown with Joshua.

After the chaotic end to Tyson Fury’s reign the future of heavyweight boxing should be a lot clearer in the upcoming weeks.

– Alistair Sargent, Correspondent (Sport)

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