LONDON (AP) Anthony Joshua was ordered to sign a deal to fight Alexander Povetkin ''within 24 hours'' or face being stripped of the WBA portion of his world heavyweight boxing titles.
The WBA lost patience with the talks between Joshua and WBC champion Deontay Wilder for a unification bout, and want Joshua to fight its mandatory challenger from Russia.
WBA president Gilberto Mendoza said on Tuesday in a statement: ''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.''
There seemed no choice for Joshua (21-0, 20 KO).
His promoter Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports on Tuesday they will not relinquish the WBA belt to wait for Wilder. Joshua owns three of the big four belts, and aims to become the first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis in 2000. His WBA and IBF belts were joined by the WBO version he relieved from Joseph Parker in March.
''We're not going to lose a belt to the WBA through ordering a mandatory,'' Hearn said. ''If Povetkin is ready to go then that will be next. It will be in September, and then we fight Wilder straight after, if he signs a contract.''
The WBA originally gave the promoters of Joshua and Povetkin until May 5 to reach an agreement then extended the deadline twice because of a potential deal with Wilder.
Hearn said they gave Wilder's team a contract nine days ago, and their reaction didn't come until Sunday, when they proposed to offer comments this Friday.
''They know we're under pressure from the WBA and it all feels like a big game,'' Hearn said.
''We have to get on with our business. If Povetkin is ready to sign a contract then he's next. Conversations and negotiations will continue with Deontay Wilder and we'll sign that contract at any moment.
''The important thing is to maintain the belts.''
Povetkin (34-1, 24 KO) became the WBA mandatory challenger last December when he beat Christian Hammer of Romania by unanimous decision. He enhanced his record in March by knocking out David Price of England in the fifth round on the undercard of the Joshua-Parker fight in Cardiff.
Povetkin held the WBA ''regular'' title from 2011 to 2013, when he suffered his only loss in a unification fight with Wladimir Klitschko by unanimous decision.