By Keith Idec
Eddie Hearn envisions a day when Anthony Joshua-Oleksandr Usyk will do big business in the United Kingdom.
Their promoter wholeheartedly agrees with Usyk, though, in that the Joshua fight isn’t quite right for the undisputed cruiserweight champion just yet. Usyk intends to acclimate himself at heavyweight by boxing a less dangerous opponent once the unbeaten Ukrainian leaves the cruiserweight division behind.
Hearn contends it’ll take a few fights at heavyweight before the sharp southpaw is ready to challenge the 6-feet-6, 245-pound Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs). That means Usyk isn’t an option for Joshua’s April 13 fight at Wembley Stadium in London if Hearn can’t arrange a Joshua-Deontay Wilder heavyweight title unification fight for that night.
“Joshua is heavy, heavy duty for Oleksandr Usyk – trust me,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com following Usyk’s eighth-round knockout of Tony Bellew on Saturday night in Manchester, England.
“Like, don’t get me wrong, technically, there isn’t many fighters in the world who can match up to Usyk. But this heavyweight game is a different kettle of fish, man. They’re 17-, 18-stone, mate, and they’re raining down shots with speed.
“But it’s gonna be fun watching it. And one day, Usyk against Joshua will be a massive fight. And it’s my job to see that that fight makes sense for both fighters. Joshua loves the idea already because he wants to test himself against the best. And, you know, I’m excited for Oleksandr Usyk’s future.”
That future shouldn’t include another fight at cruiserweight, according to Hearn. Now that Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) has cleaned out the cruiserweight division by winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament and made seven figures for beating Bellew, Hearn doesn’t think there’s anything left for Usyk to prove as a cruiserweight.
“What more can you do?,” Hearn said. “You know, tell me another fight out there at cruiserweight that his appealing. You know, it’s a bit like Lomachenko. You’re almost gonna have to handicap these guys to make things competitive or to get them beat. And he’ll be handicapped when he moves up with the big boys because of the size. He’ll be out-sized. But can he handle the size with the skill? That’ll be the challenge for Usyk. But he’s very bright in what he says. You know, this is not a game. You don’t just go, ‘Yeah let’s go to heavyweight,’ and just dive in and make mistakes. You take the right fights to learn, to set you up for a Joshua fight.”
Hearn appreciates the respect Usyk has for the figurative and literal challenges that await him in the heavyweight division. Usyk stands 6-feet-3 and competed at heavyweight while he was an amateur, yet the 2012 Olympic gold medalist realizes fights against top professional heavyweights will be different than anything he has experienced.
“He made it pretty clear that was not what he wants now,” Hearn said regarding an Usyk-Joshua fight. “He said, ‘No, no. That’s – we need time for that fight.’ He’s not silly. You know, he knows. He may feel he’s better technically than Joshua, but Joshua’s a beast. And he knows he has to work his way there. When you asked me if I can make an inter-stable fight, of course. But it’s gotta work for everybody. You know, what Usyk would want for that fight has to be agreeable to what Joshua wants. And everybody’s gotta marry together.
“If Joshua wants to fight Usyk and he feels the deal is right, and vice versa, it will happen. If they don’t want to fight each other, or they don’t feel the deal is right, it won’t happen. But a lot of the time, when you talk about promoters and stuff like that, it’s not really up to us. Like I can’t say to Joshua, ‘You’re fighting Usyk. And that’s the deal. Shut up. Usyk, do as you’re told. You’re fighting him. Off you go.’ This isn’t UFC, you know? So it’s not always that easy. The fighters have got to agree to it. But I know Joshua will always wanna fight the best. And I believe Usyk will be one of the best at heavyweight.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.