The finish line finally appears in sight for a long-awaited unified heavyweight title fight rematch.
Details are still being sorted out for the contractually bound sequel between WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua, which is now confirmed to take place this summer. Finalizing terms for the anticipated clash has taken longer than expected due to unforeseen circumstances but now at least has a sense of when the fight will occur, with the rest expected to fall into place.
“We’re gonna be in July,” Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport and Joshua’s career-long promoter confirmed during Monday’s edition of The DAZN Boxing Show with Ak and Barak (co-hosts Akin Reyes and Barak Bess). “July 23 is obviously a date that has been bandied around. That’s certainly a frontrunner right now, that date.”
The targeted time frame will put the fight roughly ten months out from Ukraine’s Usyk (19-0, 13KOs) becoming a two-division champion following a twelve-round decision win over Joshua (24-2, 22KOs) last September 25 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. The rematch was loosely eyed for April at the start of talks, with several hurdles since pushing back plans.
There were talks of step aside fees being offered to Joshua and Dillian Whyte—the WBC mandatory challenger at the time—to instead allow an undisputed championship clash between Usyk and WBC/lineal champ Tyson Fury (32-0-1, 23KOs). It never materialized, as Fury-Whyte went to a purse bid which was won by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions with a whopping offer of $41,025,000 in late January.
Fury went on to knock out Whyte with a right uppercut at 2:56 of round six in their Pay-Per-View headliner this past Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London.
Conversation quickly shifted back to Usyk-Joshua II once Fury-Whyte headed to a purse bid. The timeline for the rematch was pushed to June and then even further due to the ongoing Russo-Ukraine war, for which Usyk joined a Ukrainian military battalion to defend against the Russian invasion.
Hearn and Joshua were sympathetic to Usyk’s plight, to the point of being prepared to take a stay-busy fight if it meant facing the unbeaten southpaw later in the year. Usyk stepped down from his post on March 22 to resume his career, as a father of three young children makes him exempt from Ukraine martial law requiring fit men aged 18 to 60 from serving during wartime.
The move allowed all parties to move forward with plans for the rematch. More than a month later, Hearn is still working out the details, though hopeful of having good news soon.
“We’re in final negotiations with a number of sites in the Middle East, and in the UK,” Hearn revealed, while ruling out one part of the world. “We looked at America, I don’t think this is where it’s going to take place. I’d like to be in a position during fight week of Canelo [Alvarez versus WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol on May 7 in Las Vegas) to give some more news.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox