By: Sean Crose
How much things can change in the course of a week.
It was mere days ago that WBC and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury declared he would be facing the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in an August superfight in Saudi Arabia. Then word arrived that an arbitrator ruled Fury must fight rival Deontay Wilder a third time by September 15th. Since that time, Wilder has signed to fight Fury in July. Then, on Saturday’s ESPN Jose Ramirez – Josh Taylor card, Fury literally interrupted the broadcast team to declare that he too had put pen to paper in order to make Fury-Wilder 3 a reality. All of this, of course, would seem to leave Joshua without a dance partner.
Only it doesn’t. For the WBO has ordered that Joshua will have to defend his WBO title against former undisputed cruiserweight titlist turned heavyweight contender Oleksandr Usyk. Now both team Joshua and team Usyk have ten days to make a deal or else the fight will go to a purse bid, which means whoever bids the most to promote the battle will have the right to. Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing asked the WBO for an extension that would end early next week before matters went into motion, but that request was denied.
Although Joshua-Usyk certainly wouldn’t bring in the attention that a Joshua-Fury fight would, there’s no doubt that a battle between the two men would feature two top level fighters arguably operating in their primes. Although Joshua would likely be the favorite, Usyk is regarded as one of the most skilled fighters in the business. Should the Ukrainian prove that his ability carries effectively into the upper realms of the heavyweight division, an upset win certainly wouldn’t be out of the question.
The 24-1 Joshua last fought in December when he handily bested mandatory challenger and veteran combatant Kubrat Pulev. It had been almost a year since his previous fight, when he won back his titles from Andy Ruiz, who had shocked him in New York roughly six months earlier. As for Usyk, the undefeated 18-0 former undisputed titlist was last in the ring on Halloween, when he bested Dereck Chisora via unanimous decision at Wembley Stadium. Although Joshua will represent only the third opponent Usyk has faced in the heavyweight division, the man’s previous record has elevated his status as a contender.
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