Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury moves one step closer as WBO order AJ's mandatory challenger Usyk to fight Joe Joyce

ANTHONY JOSHUA'S blockbuster heavyweight title unification fight with Tyson Fury has moved a huge step closer to coming to fruition as the WBO have ordered Oleksandr Usyk to face Joe Joyce.

Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Usyk was the mandatory challenger for Joshua's WBO title.

But the WBO have paved the way for the biggest fight in the history of British boxing to take place this summer by ordering an interim title fight between Usyk and his former foe Joyce.

Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn, announced the news on Wednesday afternoon.

AJ, who scored a brutal ninth-round KO victory over Kubrat Pulev last December, was hoping the WBO would do their utmost to allow his long-awaited Battle of Britain with Fury to take place.

He told Sports Illustrated: "In my heart of hearts, I don’t want to drop a belt.

"I’ll fight Usyk first if I have to. But I think the governing body should overrule a mandatory if they have a fight for an undisputed champion, which they could. 

"If they were keen on this unification fight they [the WBO] would say to Usyk ‘right, we have this undisputed title fight coming up which overrules a mandatory challenge’.


"What I mean is that I’ve worked hard to put together fights towards an undisputed heavyweight champion over the last few years, except this year which has obviously been a bit up and down.

"But if I can get past Pulev, hopefully me and Fury can finally get it on in 2021, if the governing bodies are willing to override the mandatory positions in order to get one undisputed heavyweight champion of the world."

With Usyk's mandatory crack at the WBO title now in the rearview mirror, all that remains for Joshua vs Fury to come to fruition is for Deontay Wilder to end his bid for a trilogy fight with the latter.

The American is adamant he's contractually entitled to a third fight with The Gypsy King, who ended his reign as WBC heavyweight champion last February.

Team Fury, however, insist the Olympian's rematch clause expired last October.

Joshua and Fury's respective representatives are confident Wilder's bid to land a third bout – which he's sought mediation for – won't derail the fight.

Negotiations over the blockbuster showdown resumed after Joshua sparked Pulev last December.

And Hearn is confident the most-anticipated fight in the history of British boxing will be announced in the coming weeks.

The 41-year-old said: “All moving in the right direction.

"When we put the contract together it took time because we were trying to work to a contract that wouldn't come back with hundreds of comments and it didn't.

“There are still minor details to iron out but we have Top Rank's comments and are working through those now.

“There's no deadline. We expect the fight to take place in June, I wouldn't rule out early July but June is where we want to be.”

The Matchroom Boxing chief, however, has revealed there a few minor details that need to be ironed out before the bout can be announced, including whose name will be first on the fight poster.

He told Boxing Scene: “Still to be discussed. I'm looking forward to that one.

"I suppose you have whose name is first, who goes to the ring first, who has the first changing room, who will weigh in first.

“Jokes aside, that's not something that will necessarily be solved in one phone call. But it will be a discussion point over the next week or so.”

Hearn added: “I can't imagine a Zoom coin flip. It’s better to paper it and discuss it and come to an amicable agreement.

"For me AJ is the bigger draw globally. But again, we are not interested in a debate where the fight falls apart because of things like that.

“We just need to box that off. In any unification fight, this is always a conversation that can be arduous.”


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