Matchroom Boxing head Eddie Hearn says there is a 90% chance that the heavyweight unification fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury takes place in 2021.
That said, there is a 100% chance Hearn and Joshua will first need to address the situation pertaining to Joshua’s WBO mandatory challenger in Oleksandr Usyk.
The WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO champion Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) successfully made his long-awaited IBF mandatory defense of Kubrat Pulev in December.
As soon as the fight was over, attention immediately shifted toward Joshua needing to handle Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) so that he could eventually face the WBC champion Fury.
“If everyone is smart together, we can find a solution, and I really want [Joshua vs. Fury] to be undisputed because that’s always been the dream for AJ, and we’re going to do everything we can,” Hearn told Boxing Social. “But we’re not going to be held to ransom by anyone, and if we lose one belt, we’ll probably vacate them all and say, ‘this is boxing now.’ But if everyone is sensible, we’ll be fair in return, hopefully, we can find a solution.”
When asked if Usyk is out of his contract with Matchroom, Hearn said “unless we deliver the AJ fight.”
The former cruiserweight king Usyk has been eyeing a fight with Joshua ever since he made his move up to heavyweight in 2019. The Ukrainian feels that he is finally ready to take on Joshua in a battle between 2012 Olympics gold medalists.
“I’ve heard someone say that Usyk wants a percentage of AJ and Fury’s purse to step aside,” said Hearn. “The problem is, when there’s a big fight like that, everyone [wants a piece of the pie] and the greed is unbelievable … It’s going to come down to the fighters, and the fighters are paying millions of dollars in sanction fees.
“It’s a situation where some people, and this isn’t really a dig at his team or anything, but some people believe he should be getting millions, or dollars to step aside for [the Joshua vs. Fury] fight. Really, what will happen is, we will apply to the WBO for the undisputed fight. If they say, ‘no, you have to talk to Oleksandr Usyk.’ We will go to Oleksandr Usyk, and we will try and make him happy to try and make that fight go on.
“You have to be respected because you’re in a mandatory position, but there is a solution. As I’ve said before, this fight between Fury and AJ will happen with all the belts or not one belt at all.”
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman recently addressed the situation in regard to unified champions like Joshua wanting to make the most desirable fights happen first.
“It’s a sensitive and problematic [situation]," said Sulaiman. "It’s complicated, and it’s not easy. Of course there are examples, there are mistakes, and we’re trying to handle it the best way possible. It’s an important topic in our sport that deserves attention.
“Our rules are very clear. We want the best fights. We want the development of the sport. We do not want to give mandatories to fulfill and just to impose. We are very flexible and understanding case by case. We will not allow a mandatory contender to abuse that position.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com