NEW YORK – Eddie Hearn doesn’t envision Oleksandr Usyk having to go through the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Anthony Joshua winner to capture a heavyweight title.
Hearn, whose company promotes Joshua and Usyk, instead anticipates Usyk fighting for the vacant WBO title at some point in 2020. Usyk, who’ll face huge underdog Chazz Witherspoon on Saturday night in Chicago, is the WBO’s mandatory challenger for the victor of the immediate rematch between Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) and Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs).
Whomever wins their second bout December 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, must choose, however, between making a mandatory defense of the IBF title against Kubrat Pulev or a required defense of the WBO belt against Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion. Hearn assumes the winner, who also would own the WBA and IBO titles, would want to oppose the 38-year-old Pulev first.
“He’s supposed to fight the winner of Joshua-Ruiz,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com regarding Usyk. “That’s what he’s mandated to do. I don’t see him taking another fight this year. These guys, they’re not boxing every couple of months. So, I think [Usyk] flies to Saudi, and he watches that fight.
“The interesting thing now is that you’re gonna have two mandatories, the IBF and WBO, Kubrat Pulev and Oleksandr Usyk. The winner of Joshua-Ruiz is gonna get two letters [to make mandatory defenses], and they’re gonna say, ‘You’re gonna have to choose what you’re gonna do.’ If you’re choosing one of those, I think you’re choosing Pulev, personally.”
Bulgaria’s Pulev (27-1, 14 KOs) must defeat Detroit’s Rydell Booker (26-2, 13 KOs) on November 9 in Fresno, California (ESPN), to remain the IBF’s No. 1 heavyweight contender. Ukraine’s Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) is listed by some oddsmakers as a 100-1 favorite to beat Witherspoon (38-3, 29 KOs), of Paulsboro, New Jersey, in the main event of a DAZN stream Saturday night from DePaul University’s Wintrust Arena.
“We’ll see how Usyk looks [Saturday night],” Hearn said. “But I think Usyk is probably gonna end up fighting for a vacant world title, because if [the Joshua-Ruiz winner] don’t fight him, he’ll have to vacate. Again, anything can happen. Joshua won’t want to vacate any belts. But if you’re asking me, looking after Joshua, if he comes out victorious against Andy Ruiz – what it comes down to is there are a lot of unanswered questions about Usyk at heavyweight. But everybody in boxing knows how good he is.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.