Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn will sit down with Oleksandr Usyk’s manager Alex Krassyuk after Christmas to negotiate a date and site for the rematch between IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) and Anthony Joshua for April in the UK.
This is the fight that Joshua and his fans have been waiting for since AJ was dethroned by Usyk last September at the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium in London.
In the real sense, it’s Joshua’s moment of truth, as he and Hearn are going to discover whether they made the right decision in taking the immediate rematch with Usyk.
Given that the majority of the boxing world believes this is a foolish idea, Joshua and Hearn will likely wind up with eggs on their faces. But if Joshua wins, he and Hearn will get the last laugh at the doubters.
Usyk vs. Joshua date to be decided
“Well, it’s been one fight, hasn’t it? And that’s been a problem with Covid,” said Eddie Hearn to iFL TV on Anthony Joshua fighting only once in 2021, losing to Oleksandr Usyk.
“Obviously not much other than we got to get together and decide a date,” said Hearn when asked about an update on the Joshua vs. Usyk 2 rematch. “April is realistic for that fight and where it’s going to be
“AJ is the type that fights twice a year, and sometimes we feel like it would be nice to fight three times a year. We’ve had offers from around the world, but I think the UK will stage that fight.
“We have to sit down with [Usyk’s manager] Alex Krassyuk, and we’ll get Christmas out of the way and we’ll start moving forward with that because it’s time to start planning for that.
“Obviously, there were a couple of discussions about step asides and those kinds of fights. So we’ll have to see. But that looks very unlikely now because obviously of the Dillian Whyte situation, which AJ is pleased about.
“He didn’t want to have those conversations unless I presented them to him. So if that’s not the case, he moves forward with what he wants, which is the Oleksandr Usyk rematch.
“No, no,” said Hearn when asked if the Joshua vs. Usyk step aside deal hasn’t come up. “Once the Dillian Whyte fight was called [by the World Boxing Council], really, he comes into that situation and he’s got to be respected in that situation as well,” said Hearn.
Joshua deserves credit
“Again, AJ doesn’t really want to talk about a step aside,” Hearn said. “Dillian Whyte doesn’t really want to take about a step aside. So maybe it’s best to do those two fights [Fury vs. Whyte and Joshua vs. Usyk 2], and they’re two really good heavyweight fights.
Anthony Joshua is the type of fighter that fights twice a year, but obviously, Covid has meant that in 2020, he boxed once against Kubrat Pulev. In 2021, he boxed once against Oleksandr Usyk.
“That’s something you see with a lot of these big-named guys outside of Canelo Alvarez, who has done a great job of staying busy. So I would say 2021 has not been a great year for AJ because he boxed once and lost once.
“I still feel strongly that he doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for taking the Oleksandr Usyk fight. It’s very easy after the fight for people to say, ‘Well, he should have never taken that. He should have just vacated the belt,'” said Hearn about Joshua.
“But that’s not what you want, is it? I get very confused with people that seem to be geniuses after the fact. If AJ had vacated that belt, you would have been happy, and you wouldn’t have criticized him?” said Hearn.
Fans aren’t going to give Joshua credit for not ducking the fight with Usyk last September because he was a huge favorite for that fight.
If you remember, when the Joshua-Usyk fight was made, Usyk had looked very average in his two previous matches at heavyweight against Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora.
Joshua was expected to destroy Usyk, so no one will give him credit for having taken the fight because it was supposed to be a mismatch.
AJ will fight Usyk, Fury, and Wilder
“You wouldn’t have said that he ducked Usyk and he did this? And AJ has always been a guy that was consistently prepared to fight the very best, and like Chisora, we need to respect those people,” said Hearn.
“They’re the warriors of the sport, they’re throwback fighters. Joshua is prepared to fight the very best time and time again,” said Hearn.
“Again, he [Joshua] fought a pound-for-pound great [Usyk] at the Spurs on September 25th, lost, and all he’s thought about since is beating him and improving.
“I’m sure there will be some announcements about the training team [for Joshua] and everything in the New Year, but AJ has so much more to give to the sport of boxing. He’s so fresh.
“You talk about [battle worn] Chisora. AJ is so fresh and he loves it. Joshua is a two-time world heavyweight champion, unified the division twice, made an absolute fortune, and why do you still want to do it?
“Because he loves it. He loves winning and he loves boxing and he’s going to become a three-time world heavyweight champion. I truly believe that, and he’s going to fight ALL of those people we talked about.
“He’s going to rematch Usyk, he’s going to Fury, and I’m sure he’s going to fight Dillian. I’m sure he’s going to fight Deontay Wilder.
Look at his resume. He’s never ducked anyone, and I feel he deserves a lot of credit. I’m looking forward to seeing him bounce back in 2022,” said Hearn.
It’s easy to predict that Joshua will eventually face Tyson Fury, even if AJ gets beaten by Usyk in their rematch in April.
The fight with Fury will still happen for Joshua because the money they can make is HUGE regardless of what happens in the Joshua-Usyk rematch. What’s doubtful is whether Deontay Wilder will ever fight Joshua.
If Wilder never showed interest in fighting AJ when the two held world titles and the money on the line was massive, it’s highly questionable whether Deontay will take the fight now that he’s been knocked twice in a row.
Whyte could be elevated to WBC champion
“Basically, the WBC ordered negotiations,” said Hearn. What Frank [Warren] says is he knows for a fact what the WBC is going to order. That’s interesting. They [Team Fury] want the splits to be 80/20. We want the to be 55/45. That’s the maximum for an interim champion.
“So, when a purse bids are ordered, i.e., a date, you can still do a deal, but then the WBC will determine a split. Until that split is determined, it’s going to be very difficult to do a deal because if they’re going to be offering 80-20, they’ve got no chance. We’ll just win the purse bid, so we’ll see.
“Whatever the purse split is that is around the area, that will be negotiated, and if Dillian Whyte and us feel he’s not respected in those negotiations, then we’ll go to purse bids. But we’re happy to do a deal as long as Dillian Whyte’s value and length of time that he’s had to wait for that opportunity is respected.
“That’s all that it comes down to. Bob [Arum] has talked about that, but I feel like that’s Bob, trying to pretend to Dillian Whyte that he might not get his shot,” said Hearn in reacting to Fury’s promoter Bob Arum saying that he might vacate his WBC title.
“Listen, Tyson is capable of doing anything. If he does it, does it mean he ducked Dillian Whyte? I don’t know. I mean, if AJ vacated his belt, I’m sure he would have gotten plenty of criticism for vacating to Usyk.
“I don’t think he [Fury] will [vacate] because the value of the undisputed is still very much there, and you can’t be undisputed if you drop the belt.
“Looks like it, yeah,” said Hearn when asked if former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder would be Whyte’s mandatory if Fury vacates his WBC title and Dillian is elevated to the new champion.
“In an interim situation, as you saw with Devin Haney, he [Whyte] would actually be elevated to world champion, which is not something we want, to be honest with you, but that is what would happen.
“Then he [Whyte] would be ordered to make a defense against Deontay Wilder, which would obviously give him the credibility of world champion,” said Hearn.
If Whyte is elevated to the new WBC heavyweight champion, it’s going to be fun to see what Deontay Wilder’s response is. Will he take the fight with Whyte if the World Boxing Council orders the Whyte-Wilder fight?
If Wilder passes on the fight, the next highest-ranked contender in the WBC’s rankings will be given the option to challenge Whyte.