Oleksandr Usyk vs. Joe Joyce in the works for WBO interim title

Oleksandr Usyk and Joe Joyce will be squaring off in a WBO eliminator with the winner expected to be crowned as the full champion after the current WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua battles Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight championship in the first half of 2021.

Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs), the WBO mandatory, was the only thing standing in the way of Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) and WBC champion Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) fighting for the undisputed championship, and now apparently he’s agreed to let that fight take place.

What this means for Usyk is now he must jump through one more hoop try and get his hands on the WBO title. But the sad part about it all is Usyk won’t be getting the lucrative world title shot against Joshua, who he would have made massive retirement money fighting. Fighting Joshua would be the equivalent of a golden parachute for Usyk.

According to promoter Frank Warren, he’s putting together the match between the unbeaten Joe Joyce (12-0, 11 KOs) and Usyk, and he expects the World Boxing Organization to order the fight as an eliminator.

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Alexander Usyk, Anthony Joshua, Joe Joyce, WBO - Boxing News

It’s not an ideal situation for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk obviously, considering he now has to fight a tough guy in Joyce, who is coming off a massive victory in stopping the blue-chip prospect Daniel Dubois in the 10th round last November in a big upset.

Usyk is no stranger to the hulking 2016 Olympic super heavyweight silver medalist Joyce, having beaten him by a five-round decision in 2012 in the World Series of Boxing.

But that fight took place ages ago, and Joyce is a much different fighter than he was back then.

He’s bigger, stronger, and a lot wiser than he was when Usyk met up with him. Usyk is slower now than he was when he beat Joyce, and he can be hit, as we saw in his recent narrow 12 round decision win over Dereck Chisora last October.

That was a very, very hard fight for Usyk, who arguably took more punishment in that contest than he has in his entire eight-year professional career.

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Usyk to face Joyce in WBO eliminator

“We’re working on at the moment Usyk vs. Joe Joyce. I think the WBO will order that for an interim title fight,” Warren said to iFL TV.

Alexander Usyk, Anthony Joshua, Joe Joyce, WBO - Boxing News

“So we’re working hard to make that happen. It’s one of the fights that we’re working with Joe [Joyce], so that’s there to be done.”

It’s safe to say that Usyk is going to need to bring his track shoes for his fight against Joyce because he cannot afford to square up against this behemoth for 12 rounds and expect to come out of the contest in one piece.

Joyce’s jab is like a power punch, and he’s capable of landing that shot repeatedly for 12 rounds without tiring. With Joyce’s height and reach, it’s difficult to avoid his jab because he keeps throwing it nonstop now.

Usyk, 6’3″, is basically a cruiserweight that campaigns at heavyweight, and he’s done very little to fit in with his new weight class.

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In Usyk’s two fights at heavyweight, he’s weighed 215 and 217 pounds, and that’s little more than the weight a typical cruiserweight comes into their fights at after they rehydrate.

If Usyk is to have any chance of beating Joyce, he’s going to need to use a lot of movement, and he’ll have to minimize the number of times he gets hit by his jab.

It won’t end well for Usyk if he tries to fight Joyce the way that he did against Chisora. Joyce is too big, too powerful and his engine is too good for Usyk to try and outwork him.

Chisora faded late in the fight with Usyk, which saved the Ukrainian from losing that fight. Joyce isn’t like to tire late. If anything, he’ll be pressing harder, looking to wear Usyk down with jabs and body shots.

Hearn: Usyk to let Joshua vs. Fury fight for undisputed

“In an ideal scenario, the WBO will say, ‘Of course, we’ll sanction the undisputed fight [between Joshua and Fury], it’s the biggest fight in boxing, and in the meantime, we’ll make the next two [Oleksandr Usyk and Joe Joyce] available for the interim World title,” said Hearn to iFL TV on his solution to Joshua’s mandatory Usyk.

“The winner of the interim [WBO] world title will become the world heavyweight champion,'”

“But I think Usyk sees the value of the undisputed championship. He won’t want to be the guy that stops that fight [Joshua vs. Fury] from being undisputed. But we can’t just disrespect Usyk and say, ‘Oh yeah, don’t worry about it,'” said Hearn.

Joshua has got it good now with Usyk out of his hair and him free to go ahead with the Fury fight without worrying about needing to take this risky match-up.

Some would argue that Usyk is all wrong for Joshua because he has an excellent engine, and he’s capable of throwing a lot of punches when he’s on the attack. We’ve seen what happens to Joshua when he punches himself out.

Joshua completely loses it when he gasses and cannot get his second wind for three rounds afterward. If Joshua gassed out against Usyk, he’s going to be taken apart and stopped right away. Usyk will notice that Joshua has gassed just as he did in his fight with Tony Bellew, and he’ll stop right away.

Usyk will want a step aside

“I mean, in this situation, he’ll be looking for a step side, but he needs to be happy with the resolution,” said Hearn. But at the same time, the sport needs this fight.

Alexander Usyk, Anthony Joshua, Joe Joyce, WBO - Boxing News

“I’m looking to speak with Usyk and Alex Krassyuk, and try and find a resolution. It’s difficult because you have Usyk fighting Joe Joyce.

“We wouldn’t be able to agree to a deal with Joe Joyce because it’ll end up as a purse bid, which is great for both fighters because there will be a nice bid up for that fight.

“But Usyk is in a strong position, and he’s got to be happy. It’s not just a case of, ‘Sorry, Alex, you know, this is happening, and we’ll speak to you later.

“I don’t think the WBO, as keen as they are for the fight, and you know everyone is desperate for the fight. They’ll want to make sure that he has rights in this situation,” said Hearn.

With the WBO ordering the Joyce-Usyk fight as a WBO title eliminator, it’ll be interesting to know if Usyk winds up getting a step aside payment or not. Maybe Hearn and Joshua are off the hook now that the WBO is ordering Usyk to face Joyce for the interim WBO heavyweight title.

It does seem a bit unfair though when you think about it. I mean, Usyk was already the WBO mandatory, and he’s already been passed over a couple of times for a title shot. He’s supposed to be getting his title shot next. But instead of that happening,

Usyk now must take a risky fight against Joyce for the interim WBO title, and he won’t be getting the title shot that he wanted. The money that Usyk will make against Joyce will likely be far less than what he would have received for a title shot against Joshua.