Hearn says Joshua may fight Usyk before Fury
By Charles Brun: IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua may end up fighting his WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk before he faces Tyson Fury, according to Eddie Hearn.
Eddie maintains that Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) doesn’t want to give up his WBO title, and he’s worried that the World Boxing Organization will order him to face Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) in early 2021 if he defeats Dereck Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs) in their match in the fall.
The WBO ordering Joshua to face Usyk would be convenient for Hearn and Matchroom because it’s a more winnable fight for AJ than if he were to face Tyson Fury, who is huge at 6’9″. Best of all, Hearn promotes Usyk, 33, and it would be an in-house fight of Joshua were to defend against him.
Oleksandr could get AJ before Fury does
With Alexander Povetkin has beaten Dillian Whyte, he’s no longer an obstacle standing in the way of a Joshua vs. Fury fight in early 2021. It was believed by a lot of boxing fans that Hearn wanted Whyte to face Fury in hopes that he would beat him, and that would help AJ.
Joshua matches up better with Whyte than he does against a big guy like Fury. If you’re Hearn and you want to make sure the gravy train continues for as long as possible, then it’s a good idea to keep Joshua as far away as possible from Fury.
‘The Gypsy King’ is someone that could end Joshua’s reign as the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion and hurt his popularity if he beat him the way he did Deontay Wilder last February.
Wilder’s popularity has taken a significant hit from his knockout loss to Fury. That could be Joshua’s fate if he faces Fury, which wouldn’t be suitable for Hearn of Matchroom. Hence, it works for Hearn if Joshua is ordered to fight Usyk in 2021 because that would slow down the fight with Fury.
Joshua, 30, wants to be the undisputed heavyweight champion, and the only way he can do that is to defend against his mandatory challengers like Usyk. The WBO hasn’t yet ordered Joshua to face Usyk however, but it’s possible that they could do that after his next fight in December.
Joshua is defending against his IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) in December, with or without a crowd, according to Hearn. AJ wants to get Pulev, 39, out of the way so that he can focus on his next match, which could Fury or Usyk.
Usyk is a problem for Joshua
“Oleksandr] Usyk is another problem. Tyson Fury has the problem of Dillian Whyte or Alexander Povetkin, and AJ has the problem of Oleksandr Usyk,” said Hearn to DAZN. “So I think AJ would prefer that Dereck Chisor sticks one on Usyk’s chin and take that problem away.
“Of course, the focus for the majority of the fight fans is to see the undisputed heavyweight world championship. And that is the focus for Anthony Joshua.
“As I said before, he wants to win the WBC world title. He does want to fight Tyson Fury, but he wants to fight the guy that has the belt,” said Hearn about Joshua.
“It was Wilder, but now it’s Fury. If it’s Dillian Whyte, then he wants to fight him,” Hearn continued. “So we have to try and find a way to maintain our belts as well because that’ll be difficult because the WBO will want the winner of Pulev against Joshua to fight Oleksandr Usyk. So there are lots of different permutations.
“Maybe Joshua against Fury for no belts, and just calling it the best heavyweight in the world. Who knows what’s going to happen. We all want all the straps to be on the line.
“So maybe we’ll see Joshua fight Usyk if he beats Chisora in the spring or summer of next year, and then we’ll do the undisputed after. So its critical to Anthony that the belts are on the line,” said Hearn.
Fury more of a threat to AJ than Usyk
Some boxing fans may see Hearn’s comments about Usyk and interpret that to mean that he WANTS Joshua to face him more than he does Fury. The small 215 pound Usyk is a lot smaller than Fury, and he doesn’t pack a punch. In other words, Usyk isn’t as much of a threat to beating Joshua compared to Fury.
Usyk would buy Matchroom more time by keeping Fury away from Joshua, and that would help protect the money flow that he brings in. Whyte was viewed as the blocker for Matchroom to keep Fury off of Joshua, but now he’s been beaten by Povetkin.
Hearn said recently he wants Whyte to fight Povetkin by November, and then hear what the World Boxing Council says about his mandatory status.
If the WBC insists that Fury defends against Dillian by next February, which is what they had it before, then Hearn would be back in business.
Joshua won’t have to worry about Fury for the first half of 2021, and perhaps not in the second half either if he loses to Dillian.
If Whyte can get his hands on the WBC belt, he would be able to be the one that faces Joshua. As we saw in 2015, Whyte doesn’t possess the talent to beat AJ. As such, Dillian is a safe fight for Joshua in the same way that the smallish, light-hitting former cruiserweight champion Usyk is also a winnable match-up for AJ.
Usyk is too small, too weak, and too slow to have any chance at beating Joshua. Usyk might even lose to Chisora when the two fight in the fall. That would be bad news for Hearn because Chisora wouldn’t be a good option for Joshua due to all his losses.
AJ will fight in 2020 crowds or no crowds
“So the later we go, the better,” said Hearn. “We have a date of early December for Anthony Joshua, where we hope live crowds will return. If they don’t, then he has to box behind closed doors because he wants to advance his career.
“It’ll have been a year since the Andy Ruiz fight [in December 2019]. Most fighters now are having that one-year layoff. It’s not ideal for a career. That’s another thing with Dillian Whyte.
“He’s taking a risk not just Alexander Povetkin, but he’s taking a risk financially with the upside of the show. That shows you he’s up for it, and Anthony Joshua wants to fight as well.
“Of course, every fighter and their agent and adviser wants to be paid as much money as possible. But also, they want to make sure they keep advancing their career and going in the right direction.
“And Anthony Joshua will fight this year, crowd or no crowd, and that’ll be in early December, most likely against Kubrat Pulev,” said Hearn.
It looks like Hearn has shifted the frame from Whyte’s WBC mandatory to Usyk’s WBO mandatory as a delaying tactic to keep Joshua guarded against Fury. It’ll be interesting to see if Joshua does face Usyk before Fury in 2021. The fact that Hearn is talking about that happening suggests that’s what his plans are for early 2021.
The casual boxing fans won’t take Chisora seriously as an opponent for Joshua compared to Usyk. However, the hardcore fans know that Usyk has even less of a shot at beating Joshua than Chisora because he’s too small and weak to defeat him.
- Canelo reacts to Fury saying Saunders will school him on Saturday
- Tyson Fury: I can’t wait to give Anthony Joshua a good hiding
- Anthony Joshua: I’m everything Tyson Fury wishes he could be
- Hearn reacts to Arum’s “Dead in the water” comment on Joshua vs. Fury fight