Two-time world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (23-1) and IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (28-1) have set a deadline for negotiations over a world heavyweight title fight, the International Boxing Federation have confirmed.
Britain's unified world champion has been awaiting confirmation of his next fight after being ordered to make two world title defences against IBF #1 Pulev and WBO #1 Oleksandr Usyk (17-0).
However, it appears that former world title contender Pulev, 38 from Sofia, Bulgaria, will be first in line for the Londoner as the IBF have recently revealed that both fighters requested more time to agree a deal, extending talks to the end of the month.
A spokesperson for the IBF told Sky Sports: "I have just been told that the Pulev and Joshua camps have asked until January 31 to negotiate."
Bulgaria's Pulev, 38, has lost just once in 29 fights - against then-champion Wladimir Klitschko five years ago. He has since beaten Chisora and Hughie Fury.
Promoter Hearn told Sky Sports about Joshua's plans for the year: "Conversations are ongoing with all parties to plan what's next and it will really come to a head over the next few weeks.
"Right now everything is in play."
History-making former undisputed cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk’s desired world heavyweight championship fight against Anthony Joshua “is a fact”, but now he must first decide whether to face Briton Derek Chisora or ex-WBO world titlist Joseph Parker beforehand.
The undefeated Ukrainian remains adamant that his long-held dream of facing Joshua in a world title fight will be realised in 2020, whether he enters as a mandatory challenger or as the winner of the vacant WBO belt.
Usyk won an Olympic gold medal at London 2012 alongside Joshua and has since become the undisputed cruiserweight champion by winning the World Boxing Super Series, before stepping up to heavyweight and trying to become only the third boxer ever to win a belt in both divisions.
"Usyk will fight Joshua and this is a fact! The question is whether it happens in the next fight or the other," long-term manager Alexander Krassyuk said.
"At this stage we [wait] for AJ's decision."
Usyk's team have now conceded that they will likely have to be patient but have the option to first meet Chisora in a non-title fight or face Parker if the WBO title becomes vacant.
"Chisora is impossible for the title," Krassyuk admitted.
Usyk still might decide to take on Chisora, with promoter Eddie Hearn confirming that March 28 at The O2 is pencilled in, if the WBO belt remains in Joshua's hands.
"In case it turns out that the WBO title is vacant, Usyk will be happy to fight for it," Krassyuk explained. "And Joseph Parker is the highest available contender."
Parker's manager David Higgins previously told Sky Sports: "You could end up with a situation where you have Usyk fight Parker for the vacant title, which funnily enough is how Joseph became world champion. He fought Andy Ruiz Jr for the vacant title. History repeats."
Joshua does not want to vacate or be stripped of the WBO title but told Sky Sports: "If I have to, I'll give it away - but I'll get it back again."
Meanwhile, Deontay Wilder will defend the WBC heavyweight title in a rematch against Tyson Fury on February 22 with a third fight between them already considered for later in the year.
Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin have both registered "interest" in fighting each other in April.
Andy Ruiz Jr is considered a return in late spring, according to his trainer Manny Robles, who doesn't know if their working relationship will continue after a demotivated preparation for the Joshua rematch.