The IBF’s light heavyweight title eliminator has fallen at an early hurdle, with reports that Joshua Buatsi’s team failed to return signed contracts within the agreed time period.
Former champion, Jean Pascal, will now be ordered to face Germany’s Michael Eifert. As for Buatsi, it’s unclear if there are plans in place or he’s now looking for his next opponent.
The now-cancelled fight seemed somewhat doomed all along, with initial talks failing between teams and a purse bid being called. DiBella Entertainment won, outbidding Eddie Hearn’s Mathchroom, and were said to be in talks with Frank Warren to broadcast the eliminator on BT Sport in the UK.
Rumours surrounding the decision by the IBF to move on from the fight are making the rounds in reports and on social media, with a belief that the contract sticking point may have been concerning drug testing for the fight. As of writing, neither team have confirmed this.
Pascal tested positive for four banned substances in 2021, and Hearn has been vocal that proper testing would be required for him to advise his fighter to go ahead with the ordered bout.
He lent substance to the rumours on Twitter, responding to journalist Dan Rafael who said that Pascal was enrolled VADA testing for the fight.
No he wasn’t Dan..not having a good 24 hours 🙈
— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) September 21, 2022
Whatever the reasons, which are likely to be revealed in the coming days, the fight being off means Pascal enters another round of negotiations for his final eliminator. At 39 years of age, the Canadian will be keen to get things moving if he ever wants to become two-time world champion.
As for Buatsi, frustration is likely. He burst onto the scene with plenty of hype following an impressive amateur career, but his professional campaign, whilst undefeated and impressive, is yet to get him the world title shot he’s been open about aiming for. However, now that he’s free to make a fight, domestic options including one with Callum Smith may start to progress.