The WBO has now officially ordered IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) to begin negotiations to defend against Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) for his next defense.
AJ and his WBO mandatory Usyk, 34, have 10 days to reach a deal by May 31st before a purse bid is called for the fight.
If Joshua wanted to, he could vacate his WBO title and go off in another direction towards a more lucrative fight against Dillian Whyte or one of the other heavyweights.
Joshua won’t do that because he wants to collect all four titles to become the undisputed champion, so he’ll stick it out with this less than huge fight with Usyk.
This is dreary news for some boxing fans, as it means that any hopes of Joshua facing Tyson Fury in a mega-fight on August 14th are now finished.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn had asked the WBO for an extension until May 24th, but they’ve denied the request.
It doesn’t matter, though, because Hearn has no options now that Fury has said rejected the idea of paying Deontay Wilder a step aside.
Moreover, even if Fury had offered to pay Wilder, the American heavyweight said he’s not interested. He wants Fury’s “blood” to avenge his seventh-round knockout loss against him in February 2020.
Until last Monday, Joshua and Fury were on a crash course to meet on August 14th for the undisputed championship in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Things fell apart upon the arbitrator for Fury’s case, with Deontay Wilder ruled in the American’s favor, saying that the two must fight by September 15th.
The case stemmed from a rematch clause that former WBC heavyweight champion Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) had for his rematch with Fury last year.
When Fury won the fight, he opted not to give Wilder his rematch after the two were unable to schedule the third clash due to the combination of the pandemic, the networks, and Deontay needing bicep surgery.
Looking back at this now, you can argue that Fury should have stuck with the contract and given Wilder his rematch. If Fury had done this, he would likely have already gotten the fight out of the way in the first four months of 2021.
Instead, Fury chose to walk away from the Wilder fight and schedule a match with Joshua.
It’s unclear why Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn was willing to take the risk of negotiating a fight with Fury, given that his case still was yet to be decided.
It was a gamble on Hearn and Joshua’s part, and it blew up in their faces. They should have waited or, better yet, steer clear of Fury altogether. The way Fury’s luck is going, he may lose the trilogy match with Wilder, which is tentatively scheduled for July 24th in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Wilder reportedly signed his portion of the contract on Friday, and they’re waiting for Fury to sign his. Hopefully, Fury doesn’t walk away from this fight too.
Usyk has won his two fights at heavyweight since moving up to the weight class in 2019. He hasn’t looked too good, defeating Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora.