EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk unsigned, but closer

Anthony Joshua Oleksandr Usyk

The heavy lifting to secure a deal for the fight between unified heavyweight world titlist Anthony Joshua and mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk is done.

“Most of the issues have already been coordinated and approved, and we are looking forward to signing the papers,” K2 Promotions chief Alex Krassyuk, Usyk’s promoter, told World Boxing News on Tuesday.

Last month, the representatives for Joshua and British countryman Tyson Fury had finally worked out all of the details for them to meet for the undisputed championship on Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia. However, when former world titlist Deontay Wilder won a binding arbitration case against Fury to force a third fight between them next, Fury-Joshua went down the drain for the time being.

Instead, Fury, who knocked out Wilder in the seventh round of a one-sided February 2020 rematch of a 2018 draw, will face Wilder for the third time on July 24 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The fight is signed and is expected to be formally announced next week.

OVERDUE

Once Fury was forced to meet Wilder again, Usyk’s team petitioned the WBO to force his overdue mandatory shot against Joshua.

The WBO agreed and made the order in late May, although Krassyuk and Anthony Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing still negotiated terms for the bout.

Whether he was bluffing or not, Hearn had claimed that he and Joshua would not be forced into a purse bid with Usyk. They would instead vacate the WBO title if it came to that.

Anthony Joshua Heavyweight
@anthonyjoshua

However, it never got to that point, and Krassyuk, who has long had a good relationship with Hearn (Usyk’s former co-promoter), said they were able to work out the framework of the deal.

Although Krassyuk made it clear the paperwork for Joshua-Usyk is not signed yet and there are still some details remaining, he expressed confidence there would be a fight, which likely would take place in September.

“The date and place are yet issues to be discussed, but we are moving forward to fixing the details and announcing the fight officially,” Krassyuk said of the showdown that would match 2012 Olympic gold medal winners. “The paperwork might take a while.”

ANTHONY JOSHUA at TOTTENHAM STADIUM

Sky Sports, which has one fight remaining on its television contract with Joshua, reported that Joshua-Usyk likely would take place at the roughly 70,000-seat Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London.

Joshua was supposed to make a mandatory defense at the venue against Kubrat Pulev on June 20, 2020. But the fight was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anthony Joshua-Kubrat Pulev eventually took place on Dec. 12 before only about 1,000 spectators at the SSE Arena, Wembley in London.

The 31-year-old Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) knocked Pulev out in the ninth round and has not fought since efforts to finalize the undisputed title fight against Fury.

Oleksandr Usyk
Ed Mulholland

Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs), a 34-year-old southpaw from Ukraine, became the undisputed cruiserweight world champion when he routed Russia’s Murat Gassiev to unify the four major 200-pound title belts in the final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament in July 2018. He made one defense of all four belts with a highlight-reel eighth-round knockout of former titlist Tony Bellew four months later and then vacated the belts to move up to the heavyweight division.

Injuries and the coronavirus pandemic have limited Usyk to only two fights since he beat Bellew. In his heavyweight debut, Usyk stopped Chazz Witherspoon in the seventh round in October 2019 in Chicago and then won a competitive unanimous decision over England’s Dereck Chisora with Joshua watching at ringside this past October at the SSE Arena, Wembley.

Should Fury defeat Wilder next month and Joshua defeat Usyk, the sides have said they would seek to meet in the long awaited fight near the end of the year.

Dan Rafael is a lead boxing contributor for World Boxing News. Follow Dan on Twitter @DanRafael1. Dan Rafael is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.