With every mention of a potential heavyweight superfight between British behemoths Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, comes the exclusion of at least one contender who continues to serve as a roadblock.
Oleksandr Usyk continues to wait his turn in line for a guaranteed shot at the World Boxing Organization (WBO) heavyweight title. It was a status claimed from the moment the unbeaten Ukrainian southpaw abandoned his lineal cruiserweight championship reign—where he earned the designation as WBO “Super” champion—to campaign in boxing’s most storied division.
That status has not changed, nor has his desire to challenge for the crown.
“Usyk [claimed] his highest achievement at cruiserweight in order to obtain the mandatory position at heavyweight,” Alexander Krassyuk, general director of K2 Promotions-Ukraine—Usyk’s career long promoter—noted to BoxingScene.com. “And as his promoter, the fairest thing I can do for him is ensure that his sacrifice has not been made in vain.”
Usyk (17-0, 13KOs) remains in waiting for a showdown versus London’s Derek Chisora (32-9, 23KOs). Agreeing to terms for the bout—which was due to take place May 23 at London’s The O2 prior to the coronavirus pandemic—was as close as the former cruiserweight king would come to a compromise, as he entered the new year with the hope of directly facing Joshua (23-0, 21KOs).
That matter required some arm wrestling with the other mandatory challengers in waiting. A ruling came about which ultimately determined that Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14KOs) was first in line as the long-waiting number-one contender with the International Boxing Federation (IBF).
Pulev reluctantly stepped aside to allow Joshua to fully exercise his rematch clause with Andy Ruiz, against whom he suffered a 7th round knockout last June in New York City. Joshua reclaimed his slew of hardware while avenging his lone career defeat with a 12-round decision last December in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
The same corner of the world is in the running for what is otherwise billed as the biggest event in British boxing history, as Fury—who hails from Manchester, England—and Watford’s Joshua have agreed in principle to outlined terms for a two-fight deal. News of the development was revealed by Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s career-long promoter and managing director of Matchroom Boxing.
Hearn is also the co-promoter for Usyk, and the driving force behind the career of Brixton’s Dillian Whyte, who remains the long-overdue mandatory challenger in waiting for the World Boxing Council (WBC) title recently claimed by Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs).
Whyte is preparing for a summertime clash with Russia’s Alexander Povetkin. A win will leave him as next in line for the winner of the third fight between Fury and Alabama’s Deontay Wilder (42-1-1, 41KOs), as per a ruling from the WBC. Fury stopped Wilder in the 7th round of their rematch this past February in Las Vegas, nearly 15 months after the two fought to a 12-round draw in their December 2018 clash in Los Angeles.
Wilder exercised a pre-existing bilateral clause calling for the loser to demand an immediate third fight. Neither the WBC nor any sanctioning body can honor a rematch clause, but the Mexico City-based organization gave the fight its blessing, on the condition that the winner face Whyte by February 2021. The timeline could get pushed back due to the ongoing global health crisis, as handlers for Fury and Wilder continue to search for a date and location to stage their championship clash.
Similarly, the IBF permitted Joshua to enter a rematch with Pulev, on the condition that he was guaranteed the winner. A binding court order in hand leaves Pulev as next in line to challenge for the IBF strap, whether versus Joshua or in a vacant title fight.
Usyk also comes armed with such assurances from the WBO ever since making his heavyweight debut in a 7th round stoppage of Chazz Witherspoon last October in Chicago. While an agreement was made to face Chisora for an interim title, any conversation of waiting longer than immediately after that fight for his shot at heavyweight glory is a non-starter.
“We must deliver the heavyweight championship fight for Usyk as fast as possible,” vows Krassyuk. “And we will stand our ground!”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox