The world’s heavyweight championship is becoming cluttered as the top two, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, continue to negotiate.
Fury and Usyk remain locked in talks for a massive undisputed battle in the late spring, with the Middle East the likely venue.
However, what’s happening behind the pair turns into a messy situation.
World Boxing News breaks down the current hold-up with all four sanctioning bodies.
WBC heavyweight title
As confirmed by the World Boxing Council, Fury vs Usyk is on the cards. Number one-ranked Deontay Wilder and number two-rated Andy Ruiz Jr. will then meet to decide the WBC’s mandatory challenger.
They said: “Champion Tyson Fury made a voluntary defense against Dereck Chisora on December 3 in London.
“Fury will have the option to fight a unification fight against Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed championship. The winner will be committed to fighting the WBC mandatory.
“Therefore, Andy Ruiz will fight Deontay Wilder in a final eliminator for the mandatory position.”
IBF heavyweight title
The International Boxing Federation seems to be the most impatient of the four. First, they confirmed Filip Hrgovic must face Usyk despite the Fury fights overruling any stipulation.
Secondly, when that failed, they announced Hrgovic was to battle Ruiz Jr. for the interim strap, despite the Wilder fight being on the cusp of official announcement.
What is far more certain to happen is that Ruiz and Wilder – rated three and four with the IBF – will pass on the Hrgovic ‘interim’ fight.
After a warm-up, the number five-rated Anthony Joshuas should then get his chance against Hrgovic.
If Fury beats Usyk, “The Gypsy King” has promised to relinquish the IBF due to an ongoing row. Therefore, Hrgovic vs Joshua is set to happen for the vacant IBF title.
With the WBO, another interim fight had to be clarified due to the backlog. Joe Joyce won the crown against Joseph Parker last year.
Joyce will have to defend the non-existent belt instead of getting his chance as Fury and Usyk contest all four versions.
Zhang Zhilei is reported to be set to face Joyce on April 15 in the UK.
As always, the WBA is an entity all on its own regarding titles. Despite promising to eradicate those belts months ago, they still have a ‘regular’ champion.
To their slight credit, they abolished interim belts as the others brought them back, leaving Daniel Dubois waiting on his chance after defeating Trevor Bryan.
With the WBA continuing to get their sanction fees when Dubois defends the invisible strap, they won’t be too bothered by the delay.
The queue moving forward
In a nutshell, there are currently five fighters in line for a shot at the heavyweight title. Wilder and Ruiz on the WBC’s side, Hrgovic with the IBF, Joyce with WBO, and Dubois waiting on the WBA.
Once Zhang and Joshua get ratified as opponents for Joyce and Hrgovic, that will bump the number to seven.
As Fury vs Usyk is being planned for a potential two fights, dependent on the outcome, it could be a long wait.