Anthony Joshua's potential 2018 meeting with fellow heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder could be under threat after the WBC announced the winner of Dominc Breazeale against Eric Molina will become the mandatory challenger for the American's title.
Per Daniel Matthews of MailOnline, Breazeale and Molina clash on the undercard of Wilder's defence on Saturday against Canadian Bermane Stiverne, and the winner will have their shot at the champion in the next 12 months.
Englishman Joshua, 28, holds the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles, while New Zealand's Joseph Parker holds the WBO belt.
In the wake of Joshua's 10th-round defeat of Carlos Takam on Saturday—his 20th knockout in as many professional bouts—he said a clash with Wilder, 32, "has to happen."
"Boxing needs it and so do I, 100 per cent," he added, peer Matthews.
His promoter, Eddie Hearn, also said 25-year-old Parker is in Joshua's sights for next year, per BBC Sport's Michael Emons and Alex Bysouth: "Anthony Joshua will give you the fights you want. Wilder, [Tyson] Fury, Joseph Parker—they're the 2018 fights."
The unification of the heavyweight division is a much-discussed notion in boxing, with no fighter ever having managed to hold the WBC, WBO, WBA and IBF belts all at once, per ESPN.co.uk's Steve Bunce.
The WBC's announcement that Breazeale and Molina's all-American clash is a final eliminator for the chance to fight Wilder could throw a spanner in the works of Joshua's plans for next year.
Assuming Wilder defends his title against Stiverne he will want to keep hold of the belt, and so he will be obliged to take on the winner of Breazeale-Molina, potentially further postponing a clash with Joshua.
The 2012 Olympic gold medallist has numerous other options for contenders for next year.
Parker is an obvious target as Joshua looks to add to his collection of titles, and a rematch with Takam, or even Dillian Whyte, would prove attractive.
A clash with Fury remains a mouth-watering prospect, but the undefeated 29-year-old is still without a boxing license and would need to shed significant weight, so that fight is "a year or more away from ever happening," per Bunce.