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Oleksandr Usyk still plans to enforce WBO mandatory, be it Anthony Joshua or anyone else

Oleksandr Usyk and his team are aiming to be back in the spring for a WBO heavyweight title fight.

Oleksandr Usyk v Chazz Witherspoon Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Alexander Krassyuk, who co-promotes heavyweight contender and former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk alongside Matchroom Boxing, has again stated very clearly that Usyk has no intention of delaying his WBO mandatory title shot any further.

Krassyuk tells Sky Sports that no matter who holds the title, or if it winds up being for a vacant title, Usyk will be going after the WBO belt in his next fight:

“Hopefully (Usyk) will be ready to return in April 2021, and hopefully AJ will be around to comply with WBO mandatory regulations. If not, we will be fighting for the vacant WBO title with a contender appointed by WBO. ... [T]he thing I can make really clear is that we will be pushing hard to put our mandatory position in effect.”

The current WBO titleholder is Anthony Joshua, who has the WBA and IBF belts in his possession, as well. He is set to deal with IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev on Dec. 12, while Usyk is coming off of a solid win over Derek Chisora on Oct. 31.

If Joshua (23-1, 21 KO) retains, which is the expected but not certain outcome, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn has hoped to be able to make an undisputed heavyweight championship fight with WBC titleholder (and LINEAL!!!!) champion Tyson Fury after that. But there are currently so many hoops to jump through that expecting Fury-Joshua before the back end of 2021 seems foolish. Not only does AJ have to get past Pulev and then possibly defend against Usyk if the WBO makes the order official with a time frame, but Fury is in arbitration over a potential third bout with Deontay Wilder.

And the big undisputed fight simply doesn’t come off as designed if Joshua gives up one of his belts or Fury gives up his WBC belt. It’s still a big fight, but there’s a level you can stretch and still convince the public a fight is for the actual undisputed title, and then a level you can’t. This is one where you can’t. Fury-Joshua would still be a huge fight with three belts, two belts, one belt, or no belt, but a big part of the appeal, making it as big as possible, is actually being able to say “undisputed,” if even for a month or whatever.

There is a chance, as we’ve discussed a few times now, that the WBO could grant an exception, with Usyk guaranteed in writing the Fury-Joshua winner, but that seems unlikely. Not only would Fury-Joshua surely have to be a two-fight deal, a bout and then a rematch, but Usyk’s team would fight that anyway. They have said many, many times now that their intention is to fight for this belt next, and the other option — taking “step-aside” money for the time being — seems clearly off the table.

It’s also understandable. Not only has he been promised the shot, but Usyk (18-0, 13 KO) is 33 years old and his best chance at beating someone like Joshua or really any of the top heavyweights lies in him being able to out-maneuver them for 12 rounds. That’s going to be really difficult, period, and every year that goes by, it will get harder. His best chance is as soon as possible, and his team are determined to make it happen as soon as possible.

And with Hearn saying many times that the belts are indeed very important to Joshua, it’s unlikely AJ will vacate the WBO to do anything else, should he beat Pulev. That means that while, yes, Daniel Dubois or Joe Joyce could or will be the WBO’s No. 2-ranked contender after their fight this Saturday, Nov. 28, I wouldn’t start thinking too hard about Usyk-Dubois or Usyk-Joyce.

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