Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury are on course for a four-belt undisputed Heavyweight showdown, after the WBO reportedly cooled their mandatory demands.
WBA ‘Super’, IBF, WBO and IBO champion, Joshua, 31, and WBC titlist, Fury, 32, remain in ongoing discussions over a blockbuster clash in the Spring, with sites in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Singapore, China and Australia all reportedly under consideration.
A major stumbling block, however has been the situation with former undisputed Cruiserweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk’s mandatory status.
The Ukrainian cemented the position he has held since moving up to the blue-riband division with victory over Derek Chisora in October and it was thought, Joshua, who stopped IBF mandatory challenger, Kubrat Pulev in December, would have to vacate his title to secure a meeting with Fury, with Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) appearing unwilling to step aside.
Yet, a resolution has reportedly been reached, according to Jake Donovan of BoxingScene.com, with the governing body no longer calling for an immediate mandatory defence, allowing Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) and Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) to press ahead to crown the first undisputed Heavyweight champion, since Lennox Lewis and the first four-belt holder.
On Monday, Fury’s co-promoter Frank Warren revealed that preliminary talks had begun for an interim title fight between Usyk and number two contender, Joe Joyce who claimed the spot with a stunning win over Daniel Dubois in November.
According to BoxingScene.com, the victor of Joshua vs Fury, who have a deal in place for two fights this year, will have to face either Usyk or Joyce within 180 days.
Should they decide against facing the winner of the proposed latter clash, the winner will be the WBO champion.
Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk says his team have received a letter from the WBO, however insists his fighter has not given an undisputed fight his consent.
“I received the call from George Warren [the son of Joyce’s promoter Frank Warren] with the offer to promote Usyk vs Joyce for the interim WBO heavyweight championship this spring,” Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk told Sky Sports.
“We also received the letter from WBO saying that they are considering granting sanction for AJ vs Fury.
“But Usyk has never received any serious offer nor anyone approached him with the offer to ‘step aside’. We all read it from media.
“I know that the WBO in general and its president Paco Valcarcel in particular will never violate the rules of its organisation and sanction the major fight without Usyk’s consent.
“So now is the best time for the AJ vs Fury fight promoters to make Usyk a serious offer either to fight the WBO champion or to step aside and fight for the interim.”
View this post on Instagram
Joshua vs Fury remaining hurdles
With the financial details of the deal already in place, with a reported 50-50 split in the first fight and 60-40 in favour of the winner in the rematch, a decision over the broadcast remains up in the air.
Joshua is exclusive to Sky Sports in the UK, whilst he has a deal with DAZN in the USA, albeit not exclusively. Fury is exclusive to ESPN in the USA and has a deal like Joshua with BT Sport in the UK, although not exclusively.
AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn told reporters last week he is confident that an agreement can be reached to include all four broadcasters, in a similar model which saw Fox and ESPN share broadcasting rights for Fury’s victory over Wilder in February.
“I don’t think it will be difficult. There’s a solution for everybody,” Hearn said.
“The two broadcast issues are DAZN and ESPN in America – AJ has a matching rights deal with DAZN and Fury has an exclusive deal with ESPN.
“When you flip that in the UK, AJ has an exclusive deal with Sky and Fury has matching rights with BT.
— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) December 12, 2020
“Is there a deal where all four of those parties can carry broadcast of the fight? Yeah, I believe there is.
“I can’t speak on behalf of Sky, but I’m not sure they would have an issue with saying to the public, ‘You can watch on Sky or BT.’
“When it’s a fight of this magnitude, I don’t think anyone is looking to be obstructive.”
The only remaining stumbling block to an all-British clash now remains the situation regarding Deontay Wilder’s trilogy with Fury.
Wilder, 35, who was relieved of his WBC belt by Fury in seven rounds of their rematch in February was set to meet the ‘Gypsy King’ for a third time after he exercised his right to a trilogy, prior to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A proposed clash in July was delayed until October, with Wilder requiring surgery due to an injury suffered in the February fight and with the pandemic ongoing, a December 19 date was earmarked.
This was then shelved due to a number of college football games landing on the same date, with Fury’s team claiming that the timeframe for a trilogy had passed.
Wilder’s team have maintained that they are owed a third bout, taking their case to mediation and this week the Alabama man’s co-manager Shelly Finkel said they are set to move their case to arbitration.