While the entire boxing galaxy is desperately hoping for a reunification fights between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, the two British heavyweight super-champions, one guy has an opposite view: Oleksandr Usyk. The Ukrainian boxer has every right to attract attention since he is the mandatory challenger under WBO rules for a title fight against Joshua. This issue could trigger a couple of scenarios which we are about to discuss now.
In a previous article, we mentioned that the heavyweight WBO belt, currently held by Anthony Joshua, could be an obstacle for the heavyweight reunification fight between Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) and Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs). Let’s start to clarify few points. Each boxing federation has its own rules, including the WBO. And according to the WBO rules, the mandatory challenger for that belt is Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs). In other words, Anthony Joshua is technically banned from the WBO to fight against any other boxer except for Usyk. The penalty is to be stripped of the belt vacating the title.
This scenario could be avoided if Usyk waived his right as mandatory challenger which is not so uncommon in boxing, especially if he managed to sign a pre-agreement with both boxers recognizing him as a next in line. This could make sense since Usyk would not fight for the WBO belt only, but, afterwards, for all the belt held in the future by the winner of Joshua vs Fury. Is Usyk going to accept? Maybe, but most likely no. The reason is the rematch clause. Supposedly, the match in question should take place in 2021 with a possible rematch taking place before the end of the year. In other words, Oleksandr Usyk needs to sit down and wait at least for a year before having a chance of fighting for the title. Way too long for somebody who knows that he has a chance of fighting Joshua sooner than later.
The alternative, as already mentioned and agreed by Tyson Fury, is to go ahead without the WBO belt for a quasi-unification title. Still a wonderful scenario for all the boxing enthusiasts but are we sure that Anthony Joshua will be willing to lose a belt like that? Yes, most likely. Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s manager, will use extensively this argument to negotiate better economic terms and conditions and, given the money on the table, Joshua most likely will accept it. However, we also need to take into consideration that Joshua is not in rush to fight Tyson Fury and may also choose to fight Usyk first. After all, Anthony Joshua‘s recent bout against Pulev was also an ”obligatory call” by the IBF which made Tyson Fury to wait. This is the fate of a world champion who holds several crowns.
Is the WBO going to enforce this rule and vacate the WBO belt? Yes, already clearly stated by WBO officials. The federation intends to call the mandatory challenge for the defense of the title against Oleksandr Usyk and, without an agreement between the parties, Joshua will be forced to give up the belt.
Is there a way out making everybody happy? I am rather pessimistic. Best case scenario is to go ahead without the WBO belt on the table and, eventually, to set up a fight against whoever is the WBO heavyweight world champion. The manager of Oleksandr Usyk, Egis Klimas, has been very clear about this point. His client only wants to fight Joshua and no economic offer or future promises seems to be attractive to him. According to Klimas, Usyk has worked very hard all his life to get to this position and he is not willing to let it go. After all, whoever were in the position of Usyk, would go ahead demanding this title shot against Anthony Joshua. I guess that over the next few weeks there will be more and more news about this potential massive fight and its related controversies and issues.