LONDON • The World Boxing Association (WBA) has finally sanctioned a fight for its "super" version of the world heavyweight title between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko - weeks after their dithering led to the collapse of a bout between them in Manchester on Dec 10.
The highly anticipated showdown will probably take place outdoors in Britain next summer.
Joshua, meanwhile, will defend his International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt against American Eric Molina, 34, on the December date at the MEN Arena in Manchester. That will be his second title defence since stopping American Dominic Breazeale in the seventh round this year to take his professional record to 17-0.
Klitschko, who has not fought since losing his various titles to Tyson Fury a year ago, is largely responsible for negotiations breaking down for a Joshua match-up, as he insisted on the involvement of the WBA, even though he is no longer its champion.
The WBA compounded the wrangling by responding with frustrating slowness. The Ukrainian was then injured while training for an alternative bout, which scuppered all deals, forcing Joshua to accept the only option left, a defence against Molina.
Nevertheless, the prospect of a Klitschko fight is bound to keep Joshua focused against Molina, who has compiled a 25-3 professional record, with his last defeat coming against undefeated World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in June last year.
"It's been an arduous wait to gain official approval," Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn, said yesterday. "But we were delighted to receive the news that the WBA will officially sanction the fight for the 'super' title. We will now move forward with Bernd Boente (Klitschko's promoter) and Team Klitschko in planning the date and venue knowing that victory against Molina in Manchester is more important than ever."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS