Whatever lingering issues remain in putting together an undisputed heavyweight championship are no longer bound to sanctioning body obligations.
A major hurdle was cleared in efforts to move forward with a titanic showdown between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. The highly anticipated heavyweight clash will come with all major titles at stake, including the World Boxing Organization who is no longer calling for a mandatory title defense, sources with intimate knowledge of the development have informed BoxingScene.com.
Joshua (24-1, 22KOs) was previously bound to a mandatory title defense versus Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13KOs), the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former undisputed cruiserweight champion from Ukraine. The unbeaten southpaw has served as mandatory challenger in waiting for more than a year ever since moving up to heavyweight, remaining resistant to step aside agreements throughout the process.
Usyk will now head in a different direction, though with a future title shot still in reach. Sources inform BoxingScene.com that an interim title will be made available for a proposed fight with England’s Joe Joyce, which is currently being negotiated between both camps.
The ruling made by the WBO—who did not respond to an inquiry seeking comment—clears the path for Joshua to proceed straight to a blockbuster showdown with Manchester’s Fury (30-0, 21KOs) in a watershed moment for the sport. Such a fight will be the first in heavyweight history to have all major titles and the lineal championship at stake, assuming terms are reached in the near future.
According to sources, the respective teams for Fury and Joshua have been notified under no uncertain terms that the winner of their forthcoming bout must face whomever prevails between Usyk and Joyce (12-0, 11KOs). That bout must take place within 180 days following the completion of the Usyk-Joyce interim title fight.
Should the winner of Fury-Joshua decline to honor such an agreement, the winner of the aforementioned interim title fight will be recognized as the WBO World heavyweight titlist.
Additionally, Joshua will remain on the hook to next face the winner of Usyk and Joyce in the event that he doesn’t get to Fury at all by that time.
Representatives for Fury (Top Rank, Frank Warren, MTK Global) and Joshua (Matchroom Boxing, 258 MGT) have repeatedly indicated major progress made in ongoing negotiations between the pair of heavyweight behemoths. Joshua cleared one mandatory from his slate following a 9th round knockout of IBF number-one contender Kubrat Pulev last December at SSE Arena, Wembley.
Fury was let off the hook from a WBC mandatory title defense following Dillian Whyte’s 5th round knockout loss to Alexander Povetkin last August. Fury inherited the intended challenge following his 7th round stoppage of unbeaten Deontay Wilder last February at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Whyte will attempt to reclaim his old status as he prepares for a rematch with Povetkin, which will take place March 6. The winner will leave with the WBC interim title in tow, although without the guarantee of a shot at the full title in the near future.
The last remaining hurdle for Fury is an ongoing dispute with Wilder over the terms of the contract calling for the loser to exercise a clause for a third fight. The matter is currently in mediation, with a resolution expected—or at least hoped for—by month’s close.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox