IBO Champ Joshua Sets Sights
On Complete Heavyweight Unification
Anthony Joshua’s mission is clear.
The International Boxing Organization heavyweight champion defended his title on March 31 with a unanimous 12-round decision over Joseph Parker in the second defense of his IBO title.
And within minutes of the official scorecard announcement that gave Joshua winning margins of 119-109, 118-110 and 118-110, he set his agenda for the rest of 2018 – or beyond, if necessary.
Becoming the first world champion holding all five sanctioning body belts.
The only recognized crown not already in Joshua’s possession is the World Boxing Council’s belt, now held by the USA’s Deontay Wilder. The unbeaten Englishman called out the unbeaten American in the aftermath and lit the fuse on the most important heavyweight fight in a generation.
“I will get all five of the belts,” he said. “It’s not an issue.”
Lennox Lewis captured the vacant IBO title against Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas in 1999. Holyfield had arrived as the IBF and WBA champion, while Lewis was already recognized by the WBC. The WBO championship was at that time held by Vitali Klitschko.
Lewis lost and regained the IBO belt from Hasim Rahman in 2001 and retired as IBO champion after defeating Vitali Klitschko in his fifth IBO title defense in 2003. Vitali’s younger brother, Wladimir, began a historic reign of his own three years later, and by the time he was beaten by Tyson Fury in 2015 he’d held the IBO title and defended his IBO belt 18 times.
Fury relinquished his IBO title due to personal issues, which rendered the IBO title vacant until Joshua defeated Klitschko by an 11th-round TKO at a jam-packed Wembley Stadium – that’s 90,000 fans – in what many considered 2017’s best fight.
Joshua went on to stop Carlos Takam (TKO 10) before another 80,000 fans in his initial IBO defense at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales before the unification defeat of Parker at the same venue.
Wilder won the WBC title in 2015 and most recently defended it with a 10th-round TKO of Luis Ortiz on March 3 the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The two sides have postured back and forth about a showdown, but Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, said after the Parker fight that it’s now just a question of Team Wilder’s desire.
“I think it has to happen in 2018,” Hearn said. “Otherwise we are going to hit some major problems with the politics and the mandatories. It’s just a case of if it happens next or we fight (someone else) in the summer and then Wilder. If they stepped up and were actually serious about the fight and serious about a deal we are more than happy to offer them, it could happen next.”
The two fighters are 61-0 as pros with 59 knockouts. As amateurs, Wilder was a bronze medalist at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, followed by Joshua’s gold at the 2012 Games in London.
Joshua is considered No. 1 in the division by Boxrec.com and the independent PBO World Boxing Rankings. Wilder is labeled No. 2 by both Boxrec and Ring.
So, given the excitement generated by the IBO’s heavyweight world champion these days, it’s not hard to understand Ed Levine’s smile these days, too.
“The IBO title has long been a standard of excellence in the heavyweight division,” the IBO president said. “Our title has been very important to and highly valued by the respected heavyweight world champions Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, and now Anthony Joshua. We are very excited to possibly have the IBO belt involved in likely one of the world’s biggest fights expected in the near future, Joshua vs. Wilder for all the belts.”