Anthony Joshua still hasn’t decided whether he’ll defend his WBO heavyweight title against mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk or go in another direction towards a more fan-pleasing fight against Andy Ruiz Jr, Dillian Whyte, or Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz.
Usyk’s manager Alexander Krassyk wonders whether Joshua is “brave” enough to defend his WBO belt against his fighter. If not, Joshua will have to vacate his WBO title so that Usyk can fight for the belt against likely Joe Joyce.
The World Boxing Organisation reportedly had set a May 31st deadline for IBF/WBA/WBO champion Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) to decide whether he would defend against the unbeaten Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs). That deadline has come and gone, and yet there’s still no word from AJ.
“We are waiting for King AJ’s decision whether he is brave enough to get dethroned,” Krassyuk said to Sky Sports. “I have no idea at the moment. We are expecting his decision” on whether a deal can be made between Joshua and Usyk.
Why Joshua should vacate his WBO belt
If Joshua vacates his WBO title, it means Usyk will need to face unbeaten 2016 Olympic silver medalist Joe Joyce for the vacant belt.
The winner of that fight will create an interesting match for Joshua in the future that would attract a lot of attention because it would be a unification fight.
In other words, the value of Joyce or Usyk will go up once they win the WBO belt, and that’ll make for a bigger fight potentially against Joshua at some point in the future.
If Joshua fights Usyk now, there’s no interest and very little money in that fight because the casual boxing fans have no idea who the Ukrainian fighter is. The hardcore boxing fans see it as a mismatch in favor of AJ.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn recently said that he might vacate his WBO title because they’re getting tired of doing mandatory defenses against undeserving contenders.
AJ and Hearn aren’t happy because they lost out on the unification fight with WBC champion Tyson Fury after losing his arbitration case with Deontay wilder two weeks ago.
Joshua and Fury were supposed to be fighting on August 14th in Jeddah, Saudi Araba, for the undisputed championship.
Instead, Fury is now fighting Wilder on July 24th in a Trilogy. In contrast, Joshua has to decide if he wants to defend against his WBO mandatory Usyk, who brings very little to the table in terms of excitement and fan interest.
Usyk is a modern-day Chris Byrd type of heavyweight, a guy with no power that boxes his way to dull victories.
“We’ll either make a deal, or we’ll vacate,” said Eddie Hearn.
If Joshua fights Usyk, it’s likely to be a mismatch between there’s a huge difference in power, size, and speed between the two.
Usyk, 6’3″, can’t punch, and he’s small for a heavyweight. Although Usyk has bulked up to the 230s, he likely won’t be a stronger puncher, and he’ll be over-matched against Joshua.