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WBO makes Usyk ‘Super champion,’ eligible to be Joshua’s mandatory

Anthony Joshua Tony Bellew

By Tim Royner: After his 12 round unanimous decision win over Murat Gassiev in their big unification fight on July 21, the World Boxing Organization has made Aleksandr Usyk their ‘Super Champion,’ at cruiserweight, which means he’s now available to be WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s mandatory challenger once he moves up in weight to heavyweight, according to Talksport. Usyk will be given a special belt for his WBO ‘Super Champion’ status.

The timing of the WBO giving Usyk a ‘Super Champion’ tag seems to be aimed at making a fight between him and Joshua as soon as possible.

This is a good news for Usyk (15-0, 11 KOs), because it means he can quickly get a title shot against Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) as his WBO mandatory challenger. However, it’s unclear whether the 31-year-old Usyk will take advantage of the WBO giving him the ‘Super Champion’ tag, as it would put him in a fight against the much bigger, heavier 6’6” 250 pound Joshua before he’s truly ready for the fight.

Usyk plans on defending his unified IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight titles against WBC ‘Emeritus’ cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew (30-2-1, 20 KOs) in November or December in a fight that will likely be televised on Sky Box Office pay-per-view in the UK. After that fight, Usyk is expected to move up to heavyweight to go after Joshua or WBC champion Deontay Wilder.

“Based on the rules of the WBO, his promoter can request to the championship committee to name Usyk the mandatory challenger in the heavyweight division,” a WBO representative said to about Usyk being made the WBO ‘Super Champion’ and is now being made the mandatory for Joshua.

You can argue that this is a slick move on the WBO’s part in making the 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist Usyk their ‘Super Champion’, because it potentially speeds up the process of him facing Joshua for a title. There’s a lot of money from a Joshua vs. Usyk fight between the two 2012 Olympic gold medalist. Usyk’s gold medal victory over Clemente Russo of Italy was a lot more impressive in Joshua’s controversial win over Roberto Cammarelle in the super heavyweight finals in the 2012 Olympics. Camarelle wasn’t given credit for a lot of hard shots that he landed in the contest.

Without the WBO making Usyk their ‘Super Champion,’ it might otherwise take a couple of years before the Joshua-Usyk fight would materialize. But with the new the new WBO ‘Super Champion’ tag the sanctioning is giving Usyk, it’s going to put Joshua in the position where he’ll soon need to make a defense against the Ukrainian. However, Usyk can always turn down the Joshua fight until he feels ready to face him. But if Usyk does that, he’ll likely lose his WBO mandatory status at heavyweight. It probably won’t matter though, as the other sanctioning bodies will likely speedily push Usyk up their rankings to the number one spot so that they can be in on the money from a Joshua-Usyk fight.

If Usyk is in need of immediate cash, he can take advantage the WBO ‘Super Champion’ tag to use it to force a quick title shot against Joshua as his WBO mandatory challenger. Usyk can do that, but it might be foolish for him to rush the fight before he’s become acclimatized to the heavyweight division. Moreover, Usyk can make a fight against Joshua a much bigger money payday for himself if he follows the path that AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn wants him to follow in facing the following heavyweights before facing Joshua:

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Fight No.1 Tony Bellew

Fight No.2 David Allen

Fight No.3 Dillian Whyte

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Fight No.4 Anthony Joshua

It would be better for Usyk if Hearn had Usyk fight Luis Ortiz and Daniel Dubois among that list. Bellew isn’t even a true heavyweight, so Usyk won’t gain much in beating him. Bellew is arguably a step down from Usyk’s last two opponents Murat Gassiev and Mairis Briedis. Those guys would likely beat the 35-year-old Bellew without any problems.

Usyk has defended his WBO cruiserweight title five times since winning the title in defeating Krzysztof Glowacki by a 12 round unanimous decision on September 17, 2016. Usyk’s successful title defenses of his WBO belt have come against Thabiso Mchunu, Michael Hunter, Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev. Easily the toughest of Usyk’s defenses of his WBO belt came against Briedis last January in the World Boxing Super Series tournament semifinals in Riga, Latvia. Usyk won a 12 round majority decision. The next toughest fight for Usyk came against 2012 U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter, who gave him all he could handle in April of last year. Usyk won a 12 round unanimous decision, but he was forced to use a lot of movement to negate the high volume punching from Hunter. Usyk was unable to stand and fight Hunter because he couldn’t match his high volume attack.

Saul Canelo Alvarez had the option of using the WBO Super Champion tag after he won the WBO junior middleweight title in 2016 in beating WBO 154 pound champion Liam Smith. Canelo could have used the WBO ‘Super Champion’ tag to become the mandatory for WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. Canelo decided to go in another direction in facing Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at super middleweight in May 2017.

It’ll be interesting to see if Usyk rushes into the Joshua fight after he faces Tony Bellew in November or December or if he takes his time. It would obviously be smarter for Usyk to work his way to a title shot against Joshua the way normal heavyweights do, as he’s not going to be ready to fight someone with a three inch height and 40 pound weight advantage like the 6’6” 240+ pound Joshua will have over him. Joshua is beatable, but not against a small guy like Usyk. He’s roughly the same size as Alexander Povetkin.

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