By: Hans Themistode
The biggest fight left on the boxing calendar for 2019 will take place in less than one month when former unified champion Anthony Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) takes on the man who stripped him of his titles in Andy Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs). The match will take place in Saudi Arabia on December 7th, and the entire boxing world has been buzzing.
Both fighters have been fully focused on the other as they close out their training camps shortly.
Although this contest holds plenty of significance, the winner will have no shortage of options for their next fight.
As it currently stands the WBO, WBA and IBF titles will be on the line in this bout. IBF Mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) has been waiting for his crack at the title for well over a year now. He was originally scheduled to face Joshua in 2017 but was forced to withdraw due to an injury.
His unfortunate setback hasn’t slowed him down one bit however as he has won three straight contests. Pulev now waits patiently for the results of December 7th, but he isn’t the only one standing in a mandatory position.
The former undisputed Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) made his long awaited debut at the Heavyweight division after completely clearing out the Cruiserweight weight class. Usyk stopped late replacement opponent Chazz Witherspoon in the seventh round back in October at the Wintrust Arena, in Chicago, Illinois. He is now waiting in line as the next challenger to the December 7th contest as the WBO mandatory.
Who exactly will get the next shot is where the confusion lies.
For those who are unaware, each sanctioning body is given an order in which a mandatory fight must happen. With the winner of the December 7th, bout possessing three titles, the IBF mandatory is set to be the first in line.
“Kubrat Pulev’s next fight will be for the IBF world heavyweight title,” said Pulev’s promoter. “If the Joshua-Ruiz winner decides not to fight Pulev, his next fight will be for the vacant IBF title.”
Waiting for not only the December 7th, rematch but also for another contest between Pulev and the winner might not sit well with Usyk.
“We’re going to have a problem where Usyk and Pulev both say you’ve got to fight me next,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “Some belt could become vacant, because the IBF and the WBO are both going to order their mandatories after Joshua-Ruiz Jr. Unless a deal can be done with someone, you’ve either got to do that, or vacate.”
This would be a nightmarish situation for fans. Finding an undisputed Heavyweight champion hasn’t been done since Lenox Lewis accomplished the feat two decades ago with his victory over fellow hall of famer Evander Holyfield in 1999. If the the WBO or IBF belt is indeed vacated, then it will leave boxing fans waiting even longer before they can see an undisputed Heavyweight titlist.
The thought of sitting back and waiting his turn could be a frustrating one for Usyk. However, he could choose to take on another fighter in the meantime.
There have been rumbles from numerous sources that a showdown between Usyk and Dereck Chisora could take place. The aforementioned Chisora has long been critical of the fighting style of Usyk and believes he would hand him his first defeat.
A bout against Chisora could be a risky one for Usyk. He is already in a mandatory position and Chisora would provide a much sterner test than the one he received from Chazz Witherspoon. Chisora is also on a roll at the moment, winning his past three contest with two of those wins coming via stoppage.
A showdown between them might be viewed as a high risk-low reward type scenario, but Usyk’s team isn’t opposed to the contest taking place.
“We don’t know what happens on December 7,” said Usyk’s manager Egis Klimas. “But if it is possible to fight in between and not to wait for another six months, I think Chisora will be a good fight for Usyk”
As much as Usyk would hate to admit it, he has his hands tied. Pulev will receive his title shot first, which will force the former Cruiserweight champion to wait a bit longer. With that being said, there is a good chance that the winner of the December 7th rematch opts to just vacate the belt. In that scenario, we could see him and Chisora face off for the newly vacated title.
Whether a contest between Usyk and Chisora is for a belt or not, it seems as though we are heading towards a showdown between them in 2020 regardless.