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WBO orders Joshua to defend against Usyk next

Aleksandr Usyk Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

By Charles Brun: Anthony Joshua and his clever promoter Eddie Hearn will need to make a fast decision now that the WBO has officially ordered him to defend against their mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk next within 180 days. Will Joshua hold onto the WBO belt or vacate it so that fellow Matchroom fighter Usyk can battle Josepph Parker for it?

Joshua will be fighting next in April, according to Hearn.

The World Boxing Organization sent a letter to IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Joshua (23-1, 21 KO) to defend against their mandatory Usy k (17-0, 13 KOs) next, and they have 30 days to come to an agreement before a purse bid on January 10.  The fight MUST happen before June 4.

Dereck Chisora was hoping to face Usyk next in early 2020, but that obviously won’t happen. Even if Joshua doesn’t face Usyk next, #14 WBO Chisora isn’t in a good position to fight for the WBO belt if it’s vacated. Chisora is ranked TOO low by the WBO to fight for the WBO belt if Joshua is stripped or if he vacates it.

IBF wants Pulev for Joshua’s next defense

Kubrat Pulev is the IBF mandatory challenger, and that sanctioning body wants their fighter to be the next in line for Joshua. If the IBF and WBO aren’t able to agree on which mandatory goes first for AJ, then he’ll be forced to vacate or he’ll have the title stripped from him. Hearn maintains that Joshua wants to keep all 3 of his titles, but he’ll probably won’t worry too much if he loses the WBO belt.

Joshua, 30, recaptured his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles last Saturday night in defeating Andy Ruiz Jr. (33-2, 22 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision, showing off his amazing boxing skills that few fans knew he had in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The victory for Joshua avenged his 7th round knockout defeat against Ruiz six months ago on June 1.

WBO belt likely to be vacated by Joshua

Joshua’s promoter Hearn wants one of the sanctioning bodies to allow their mandatory challenger to wait before fighting for the world title, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be successful.

The WBO belt will likely be vacated by Joshua and here’s why: Hearn promotes former 4 division world champion Usyk, and he also promotes #4 WBO Joseph Parker. If Joshua vacates the WBO, then Usyk and Parker (26-2, 20 KOs) will fight for the vacant strap. The winner of the Usyk vs. Parker fight will then face Joshua in a unification match, provided that he beats IBF mandatory Pulev in April.

We would be seeing a mini-tournament by Joshua vacating his WBO title, and the tourney would play out like this:

  • Joshua defends against Pulev in IBF defense
  • Usyk battles Parker for vacant WBO title
  • Joshua-Pulev & Usyk-Parker winners face each other in Aug/Sept 2020

Joshua vacating WBO title is a win-win for Matchroom

The WBO may not realize it but they’re doing Hearn and Matchroom Boxing a HUGE favor by ordering Joshua to defend against Usyk in his next defense. This is arguably like a Christmas present to Hearn and Matchroom, as gives them a chance to put the undersized Usyk in position for him to win a world title.

At 6’3″, 215 lbs, with no power to speak of, Usyk would stand very little chance of beating Joshua to win the WBO belt. If that fight happens next, Usyk the smaller, weaker and slower Usyk will be toyed with by Joshua in a fight that would likely be far easier than his win over Ruiz Jr. It doesn’t work well for Matchroom and Hearn if Usyk is beaten straightaway by Joshua in his next fight, because it won’t make as much money as it would if the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine captures the WBO belt first.

If Usyk can come into the fight with Joshua as the WBO champion and face him in a unification match, it’s a bigger money fight. There’s more green stuff on the line, and that obviously is what it’s all about. Hearn also wants to setup the Joshua-Usyk fight to make it as big as possible before letting it take place. The British promoter cares about his fighters, and he understands that Usyk will make more money if he wins the WBO belt first before he faces Joshua afterwards.

If Joshua does decide to face Usyk next, it’ll be a simple fight for Hearn to put together, since he promotes both guys. But again, it’s not likely to happen. The only way that happens is if there’s doubt on Hearn’s part whether Usyk can beat Parker.

Parker a tough fight for Usyk

Former WBO heavyweight champion Parker might have too much speed, power and mobility for Usyk to handle. Of the heavyweights in the division, Parker matches up better against Usyk than most guys. The 6’4″, 240 lb Parker has the size, power, mobility, and experience to defeat Usyk.

On top of that, Parker is a better combination puncher than Usyk. Despite what some boxing fans are saying, this is not a good fight Usyk. Parker has the talent to negate all of Usyk’s advantages. Usyk moves a lot, and that’s what has given his opponents fits since turning professional. However, Parker is just as mobile as Usyk, but with better hand speed, power and size. Parker ticks all the boxes in a match against Usyk.

Usyk could lose to Parker

If Hearn thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that Usyk beats Parker, he could wind up disappointed. Although Joshua and Dillian Whyte both beat Parker, those fights had arguably poor officiating by the referees. For example, Whyte knocked Parker down with an accidental head-butt in the 2nd round in their fight last year in July, and was given credit for a knockdown by referee Ian John Lewis .

The fight took place in London, England. In Parker’s loss to Joshua last year in March, the referee Giuseppe Quartarone prevented inside fighting. The decision for the referee to do this put the shorter fighter Parker in a situation where he was forced to fight Joshua on the outside all night. The good news for Parker is Usyk isn’t taller than him, and he’s not likely to try rough him up the way Whyte did.



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