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Oleksandr Usyk fast-tracks to WBO’s mandatory position

The former undisputed cruiserweight king will be in line to face the winner of Ruiz-Joshua II.

Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew - Cruiserweight World Title Fight Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The wait continues for Oleksandr Usyk to jump into the heavyweight pool; whether “The Cat” can swim with the best in the division is one of the biggest unanswered questions in the world of boxing at the moment.

This weekend, the World Boxing Organisation stated their intentions by naming the former undisputed cruiserweight champion as their mandatory challenger for their heavyweight world strap — the title is currently squeezed around the waist of unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr, as we await the announcement of his rematch against fallen champion Anthony Joshua.

This announcement signals a baptism of fire for Usyk who is yet to make his debut in the Land of the Giants. The Ukrainian’s scheduled bout against Carlos Takam in late May was postponed after Usyk suffered a biceps injury in camp — Eddie Hearn has since signalled his intentions to reschedule this fight for sometime in September.

As with the WBC, the WBO have left Briton Dillian Whyte out in the cold, overlooking his position as No. 1 in their rankings. The WBO have argued that Usyk’s status as the “super champion” at cruiserweight has given him enough merit to jump the queue ahead of Whyte, who wanted the sanctioning body to delay a ruling until July 22, two days after he faces Oscar Rivas inside London’s O2 Arena. This comes off the back of the well publicised 600th day that Whyte has held the WBC’s No. 1 position.

The WBO outlined their position yesterday, having reviewed the request from Usyk and Team Usyk to be named their mandatory challenger. The sanctioning body outlined Usyk’s list of achievements within the sport — starting with his 2008 gold medal for Ukraine at the European Amateur Boxing Championships — highlighting the 32-year-old’s glittering rise, culminating in his dissection of Tony Bellew last November in Liverpool.

Once an agreement has been made with the IBF in relation to the order of mandatory defences, Usyk is destined to step into the ring with either Joshua or Ruiz in early 2020.

For Eddie Hearn, it’s another chance to regain control of three of the four heavyweight marbles. If Ruiz can repeat his jaw-dropping performance from June 1, Usyk would be a sturdy test for Ruiz with his technical prowess well-suited to negating the problems that “The Destroyer” caused AJ in the Big Apple. This is, of course, assuming that Ruiz wouldn’t drop the title if he is successful in the rematch. If Joshua wins, it’s back to plan A — Usyk was signed by Matchroom to be fed to Joshua further down the line for the unified crown.

Despite still waiting to make his debut at heavyweight, the stars seem to be aligning for Oleksandr Usyk. With Joshua’s future under scrutiny, Hearn will be holding the likes of Usyk and Whyte close by his side in his attempts to swim against the waves created by Wilder and Fury over the past couple of months.

Whether “The Cat” can swim in deep waters is yet to be found; he’s unlikely to need nine lives.

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