Anthony Joshua believes Oleksandr Usyk will be willing to take a step-aside deal to enable Joshua’s undisputed world heavyweight title fight to go ahead, saying that Usyk is a “reasonable person”.
Usyk, the former undisputed world cruiserweight champion, is the WBO’s mandatory challenger and Paco Valcarcel, the WBO’s president, said that Joshua would be made to face Usyk after he dispatched Kubrat Pulev, the IBF’s mandatory, At Wembley last month.
Usyk had previously indicated that he was not interested in a step-aside deal. The last WBO mandatory defence at heavyweight was in September 2017, when Joseph Parker beat Hughie Fury in Manchester.
However, Joshua believes that Usyk could be open to the deal, which would allow a Joshua-Fury fight to happen for the WBC, WBA, WBO, IBO and IBF titles.
“I think Usyk will be keen to step aside and let the fight happen,” Joshua said.
“We’ve reached out to his management team. He’s a reasonable person and he’ll understand the magnitude of this situation.
“Look, if I go right I’ve got Tyson Fury, tough fight. If I go left, I’ve got Usyk, another tough fight. Ideally I’ll go right but ultimately all I want to do is focus on the fight.
“It’s a challenge for me. I respect Fury, he’s done great things. But I want to challenge myself. If that’s with Tyson Fury for the WBC title I promise you I will go that route. I will take that opportunity with both hands and both feet.”
One of the problems facing Usyk is he agrees to step aside is that Joshua and Fury are understood to be agreeing to a two-fight deal, meaning that Usyk would not get the chance to face the winner for all four belts in 2021.
Late May is understood to be the target date for a first Joshua-Fury fight, although with Coid restrictions being ramped up in the UK, it seems unlikely that the all-British clash will go ahead in May in London, which would be the first choice of venue.
If a rematch were to happen in November or December, it would mean the ultimate winner would not be facing anyone else until at least April 2022, by which time issues regarding the WBC title and the claims of Deontay Wilder and their interim champion, Alexander Povetkin, will also come to the fore.
One solution that has been pushed forward by Eddie Hearn is that a deal could be arranged where the winner of the first fight drops the WBO belt straight after the fight. This would allow all four titles to be in the line for the fight, while Usyk could box for the vacant title as soon as a week after.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.