The push is on for unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua 23-1 (21) to defend his titles against Oleksandr Usyk 17-0 (13) or risk being stripped of his WBO belt.
WBA, IBF and WBO champion Joshua has reportedly agreed to terms to face WBC counterpart Tyson Fury in a two-fight series next year providing he gets past his IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev later this year. Fury will need to defeat Deontay Wilder in their third fight too.
Usyk, the WBO mandatory challenger, stepped aside to allow the Pulev fight to take place while he signed on to face Dereck Chisora before the global coronavirus pandemic shutdown boxing worldwide.
The 33-year-old Ukrainian southpaw’s promoter Alexander Krassyuk has warned that they will be holding Joshua to his mandatory obligations.
“Usyk’s WBO mandatory had to happen before AJ vs Pulev,” said Krassyuk, who works alongside Eddie Hearn, to Sky Sports.
“But we were flexible and did not put much pressure on, allowing AJ to complete his IBF mandatory while Usyk fights Chisora.
“But this was made with regards that the WBO champ (whoever he is after AJ vs Pulev) has to make his mandatory versus Usyk.
“It means that either Joshua fights Usyk first or fights Fury without the WBO belt.”
Joshua had previously told Sky Sports that Usyk is exactly the type of opponent he wants to face.
“When I’m trying to build my record, I want opponents like Usyk to say that I’ve defeated them,” he said.
“He uses his feet very well and positions his hands well. You can’t hit him because his feet move so well. If you do manage to catch him, [the punches] are brushing off the gloves.
“What I’d do, as I have done already, is study him – from his footwork, his hand positioning, to his openings.
“Then I’d go to former people who have faced him and find out information on how to defeat him.
“Usyk is a great cruiserweight, the undisputed cruiserweight champion, who has decided to move up to heavyweight to mix it with the big boys.
“He’s still exploring the division, but he wants a piece of the big pie – he’s more than welcome to try to take this out of my hands.”
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