By William Lloyd: WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and mandatory Oleksandr Usyk have been given an extension by the World Boxing Organization to try and negotiate a deal before the fight goes to a purse bid.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn revealed on Thursday that they’d given a “very fair” offer to Team Usyk for a fight. Hearn is hoping they agree to the offer, but if not, AJ is prepared to move on and potentially fight one of these three heavyweights:
1. Dillian Whyte
2. Andy Ruiz Jr
3. Luis Ortiz
If Joshua vacates, Usyk would likely face Joe Joyce for the vacant WBO title.
That would be a tough match-up for Usyk, as he would be pressured the entire time, and he might gas out due to the weight he’s packed on his small frame recently.
Joshua still wants Usyk next
“Usyk is our preferred opponent, we want to hold onto the belts, but as I’ve seen in some interviews, there is a bit of tiredness of being told who to fight and what split they’re going to get and the inability to have flexibility in AJ’s schedule,” said Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn to iFL TV.
“At the same time, he hasn’t worked this year. Do give them up. So, we’ve made Usyk which we feel is a very fair offer. We don’t have a deal yet.
“Again, it’s still our intention in making that fight, but if we can’t reach a deal, then we’ll make other plans.
“AJ is happy to fight Usyk. We want to fight Usyk. If we can make a deal, we’ll take that fight. If we can’t, we’ll move on, but I do think and hope that’s the fight that happens next,” Hearn said.
Hearn has a little more time to try and bang out a deal with Usyk’s management before the fight goes to a purse bid. It’ll be interesting to see if Joshua chooses to hold onto the WBO belt if it goes to a purse bid or if he’ll vacate.
AJ not trying to swerve Oleksandr
“Not in the slightest because if you look at AJ, he’s always boxed his mandatory’s, he’s always fought his contenders. He’s a throwback fighter,” Hearn said when told that some fans might think Joshua is trying to swerve his WBO mandatory Usyk.
“From Wladimir Klitschko, he [Joshua] was told he had to fight [Kubrat] Pulev. Pulev pulled out a week before, he’d been training for that style, and then [Carlos] Takam got the fight.
“It was a completely different style, and then in the fight after that, he boxed [WBO heavyweight champion] Joseph Parker in a unification. Then he [Joshua] got a letter, ‘You’ve got to fight [Alexander] Povetkin. That was three years ago, and it was a dangerous fight at the time.
“He fights Povetkin, beats him, and then takes a voluntary. Who does he take? Not Tom Schwarz, he takes Andy Ruiz; loses, comes back and wins, and then gets another letter. ‘You’ve got to fight Pulev.’ Then he wants to fight [Tyson] Fury for the undisputed, but that falls through and then gets another letter, ‘You’ve got to fight Usyk.’
“He’s gone, everybody. He has absolutely no problem, no fear – and neither do I – of fighting Oleksander Usyk.
“But it’s just the mentality at the moment because he’s not overly happy with the situation, and particularly with Tyson Fury and his team because that was all we were working for.
“So now he has to reset, he has to change his sparring, he has to prepare for a different type of fighter, a southpaw, obviously. He’s more than happy to do so, but he won’t have liberties taken,” Hearn said.
It sounds like Joshua is tired of getting stuck with dull mandatory challengers that he must defend against repeatedly.
If it were up to Joshua, he would be giving the boxing public the fights they want to see against Fury, Whyte, Andy Ruiz Jr, and Deontay Wilder.
That’s one of the drawbacks for a champion holding many world titles. They need to defend against mandatory challengers consecutively sometimes. It wouldn’t be a big deal if the sanctioning bodies only had talented contenders participating in their title eliminators.
Unfortunately, the sanctioning bodies frequently give high rankings to lesser fighters, which puts the champions and their promoters in a situation where they have to deal with mandatory challengers that bring nothing to the table as far as fan interest, experience, and talent.
Hearn has several Plan-B options for Joshua
“Actually, today is the day they’ll order purse bids, but then it’ll be seven days after that, so we’ve got another week,” said Hearn about when the deadline is for him to get the deal done for the Joshua vs. Usyk fight with the WBO.
“But I feel like we’re in a place where we can get the fight done today. If Team Usyk agrees, it’s done. Thursday,” said Hearn when asked to clarify the date that he believes it’ll be done.
“I think there’s a few,” Hearn said when asked what’s the Plan-B for Joshua if they can’t get the Usyk fight done.
“I still feel the Dillian Whyte fight is bound to happen in times, and if we didn’t have so many mandatories, I think that would have happened before.
“Andy Ruiz has been on for number three. I think that’s a huge fight. Luis Ortiz is another fight that can get made in the U.S.
“There are a few options, but I’ve put it on record; our absolute preference is to defend against Usyk and maintain those belts.
“The problem now is, we have no guaranteed the undisputed fight is happening. It’s a pipedream.
“No one trusts anyone at the moment, so whatever they [Team Fury] say, we take that for granted anymore.
“So we’re in a position where we keep fighting to hold the belts, but what are we holding the belts for?
“But absolutely 100%, that [Usyk] is the fight that we would prefer next,” said Hearn.
The boxing public would much prefer Joshua to face Dillian Whyte or Andy Ruiz Jr rather than Usyk, but it sounds like AJ wants to keep his WBO title. If that’s the case, he’ll fight Usyk next and then look to fight the winner of the Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder clash.