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Usyk’s IBF exception gives Fury vs Joshua undisputed boost

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Oleksandr Usyk asking for an IBF exception to remain undisputed has inadvertently worked out well for Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.

Usyk wants to keep the IBF version despite the threat of being stripped due to a mandatory with Filip Hrgovic. Eddie Hearn, who co-promotes Hrgovic, revealed his unhappiness with the decision for the IBF even to consider the move. However, the Matchroom boss is not seeing the bigger picture.

If the IBF grants Usyk his wish, Hrgovic will likely fight for the interim version in his next fight with Daniel Dubois or the contest after this weekend’s bout. This scenario means if Hrgovic beats Dubois, Hearn can still put together a fight against Joshua for the Croatian with extra significance.

Fury vs Joshua for undisputed heavyweight title

Joshua vs Hrgovic for the interim IBF heavyweight title could occur at Wembley in September, with the winner in line for a crack at the Usyk vs Fury rematch winner. Therefore, if Fury somehow gets revenge against Usyk in the final quarter of 2024, Joshua will get a shot at his ultimate goal of the undisputed title.

It’s no secret that Joshua has always wanted all four belts. His tagline was ‘Road to Undisputed’ with JD Sports for years. So, Hearn could be better off persuading Hrgovic to take an interim offer rather than complaining about Usyk’s right to keep the title he just became the first boxer in 25 years to claim.

“If Fury wins the fight for the undisputed, it’s bigger than if Fury loses,” Hearn told Chris Mannix on his YouTube channel. “It’s still a massive fight, but they [Joshua and Fury] have both lost to Usyk twice.”

On whether Joshua wants to become a three-time top-division champion no matter how many belts, Hearn added: “It’s always going to be a big fight. But at the same time, we can’t worry about other people. We can’t base our career around Tyson Fury winning or losing. The only focus AJ has is regaining the world heavyweight championship. Whether that’s the IBF spin-off or Usyk or Fury, we don’t really care. Whoever has got it has got it.

“AJ is not really focused on Fury. He’s just focused on the belts. So, we’d love to fight Fury for it. Hopefully, if there’s a rematch, he can do the business [against Usyk], but obviously, he will be up against it.”

Eddie Hearn against IBF exception for Usyk

Hearn concluded by discussing the IBF exception.

“My understanding is there’s already been an exception. I get both sides of the argument. You really don’t want the belts to be fragmented, but you’ve got a guy [Hrgovic] who has been ordered ages ago and has been waiting and waiting and waiting.

“So, I understood that the Fury vs Usyk fight took place on the condition that the winner had to fight Hrgovic with no exceptions. I don’t think that will happen for Hrgovic vs Dubois [this weekend] for that to be on the line. But maybe the winner of that has AJ next in line for the IBF. We have to wait and see. But you can’t ignore your mandatory challenger for two or three years.”

Hearn thinks that if Hrgovic gets the title now, Joshua’s becoming a three-time heavyweight champion becomes much easier. Plus, there’s no guarantee that Fury can defeat Usyk, so any subsequent fight would never be for the four-belt crown in 2025 anyway.

The only way Fury vs Joshua ever happens for the undisputed title is if “The Gypsy King” gains revenge.

Read all articles and exclusive interviews by Phil Jay. Learn more about the author, experienced boxing writer, and World Boxing News Editor since 2010. Follow on Twitter @PhilJWBN.