Tony Bellew vs David HayeBoxing - Tony Bellew vs David Haye - O2 Arena, London, Britain - May 5, 2018 Anthony Joshua in the crowd Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
(Reuters) - British heavyweight Anthony Joshua has been told by the World Boxing Association (WBA) to agree terms for a mandatory title defense against Russia's Alexander Povetkin with "immediate effect" or risk losing his WBA title.
Joshua, the IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion, has been in negotiations for a unification fight against WBC champion Deontay Wilder but the WBA's decision is likely to delay a potential bout between the two heavy hitters.
"Today the WBA requested an answer from Anthony Joshua's team regarding his fight with the mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin," WBA president Gilberto Mendoza was quoted as saying by Sky Sports television.
"The WBA have allowed over a month extension to negotiations with Povetkin and also ongoing discussions with Deontay Wilder.
"It appears the Wilder team have not returned the contract for the fight and therefore we are requesting a date for the Joshua versus Povetkin fight with immediate effect."
The 28-year-old's promoter, Eddie Hearn, said the team were frustrated that contract talks with Wilder's camp were taking so long, and that Joshua would now turn his attention to fighting Povetkin.
"I think they have just said 'Enough is enough'," Hearn told Sky Sports. "'We need to know what you're doing, you're mandated to fight Alexander Povetkin' -- and I think Povetkin's people are getting extremely restless as well.
"They have been waiting and, to be fair to them, they have been patient, but Mendoza has clearly decided enough is enough and we've got to move."
Joshua is unbeaten in 21 fights since his professional debut in 2013 while Povetkin boasts a record of 34 wins and one defeat.
(Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Kevin Liffey)