With possible emergence of mandatory title defence from WBA, Joshua vs Tyson Fury unification bout is further doubtful

With possible emergence of mandatory title defence from WBA, Joshua vs Tyson Fury unification bout is further doubtful
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The winner of the Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua rematch is likely to be ordered to defend their world heavyweight titles against Robert Helenius, who defeated Adam Kownacki in a WBA final eliminator

Joshua defeated IBF challenger Kubrat Pulev last December, while he was beaten by Usyk, his WBO challenger, meaning that the WBA are the next governing body to enforce a world title defence.

Robert Helenius could emerge as the first opponent for the winner of the Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua rematch, with the WBA set to decide their mandatory challenger.

Joshua has activated a clause for an immediate rematch with Usyk, which will be held next spring after the Ukrainian star claimed the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight belts with a points win last month.

But according to Sky Sports,  the victorious champion must then fulfil mandatory defences of his titles, with Helenius potentially next in line to challenge after he overcame Adam Kownacki in a WBA final eliminator.

“Right now we are focused on the WBA mandatory position,” Helenius’ manager Markus Sundman told Sky Sports.

“Robert fought a WBA elimination bout in March 2020 against Adam Kownacki, and he placed a stamp on that victory in the rematch on October 9.

“Usyk should really be Robert’s next bout. “There is no more deserving challenger in the WBA. Charr, Bryan, Dubois, are they more deserving? I think not.

“Sometimes you have to dig your heels in the ground and fight for something important, and I can’t think of anything in sport more important than the heavyweight championship.

“We will do what is necessary to assure Robert’s rightful position as Usyk’s next WBA mandatory.”

“In the end, of course we have respect for [president] Gilberto [Mendoza] and the WBA, and we think that ultimately they will do the correct thing and formally order Robert as the next mandatory,” said Sundman.

“The WBA mandatory is due next, and that must be Robert.”

The Finnish contender is also guided by influential advisor Mike Borao, who has steered Charles Martin and Frank Sanchez to within striking distance of world heavyweight title shots.

Helenius’ team believe he can become the modern-day ‘Cinderella Man’, emulating the exploits of James J Braddock, who famously shocked Max Baer to become heavyweight champion in 1935.

“I am happy with my performance against Adam, but I know I can do even better,” Helenius told Sky Sports.

“This is the best I’ve felt since 2011. I think I showed in my last fight that when I am healthy, I can beat anyone and am one of the top heavyweights in the world.

“I leave those decisions to my team, but I did win a WBA eliminator against Kownacki, so that should probably be the next one.

“It’s been my dream to win a world title. At this point, I am so motivated I don’t feel anyone can beat me.

“Usyk or Fury, bring them both.”

Helenius twice defeated Kownacki on high-profile bills in America to boost his reputation, but he is willing to return to Europe for a world title shot.

“Usyk and Fury present different challenges and I would likely, and gladly, face either in their home countries,” said Helenius.

“But as I’ve showed in my last two bouts, travel is no problem for me. Honestly, Europe is probably more convenient than the US for me.

“It would be so huge here in Finland. I am happy that I’ve got back to a position where many people thought I would never be.

“One thing I can tell you, I will become heavyweight champion of the world for my family, my country, and for myself.”

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