Less than a week after Anthony Joshua regained his Unified Heavyweight Championship belts, one of the organization’s who’s title he now holds again, has formally demanded he fight their number one contender.
ESPN boxing writer/insider Dan Rafael broke the story late Wednesday that the World Boxing Organization (WBO) has notified Joshua, his promoter and number their one, Oleksandr Usyk, that they have all have 30 days to agree and six months to make a fight happen:
The @WorldBoxingOrg formally orders @anthonyfjoshua vs. @usykaa and sends letter giving them 30 days to make a deal. My story: https://t.co/OD6clxkfho #boxing @Fred_Cunningham @EddieHearn @MatchroomBoxing @Frank_1_Smith @KlimasBoxing @PacoValcarcel
— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) December 12, 2019
Rafael obtained a copy of the actual letter from the WBO which states in part,
“The WBO World Championship Committee hereby orders the parties herein commencement of negotiations for the above-mentioned WBO heavyweight mandatory championship contest,” the WBO wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.
“Please be advised that the parties have 30 days upon receipt of this letter to reach an agreement. If an accord is not reached within the time frame set forth herein, a purse bid will be ordered pursuant with the WBO regulations of world championship contests.”
This is not an unexpected move, as the WBO had already named the unbeaten former Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion Usyk as their number one contender earlier this fall. This despite Usyk never having fought in the division.
Usyk, 17-0, 13 KOs, won his first fight as a heavyweight beating last minute replacement, 38 year old American journeyman, Chazz Witherspoon by 7th round TKO in October.
Here’s more on the possibility of Joshua-Usyk happening in 2020 from our Big Fight Weekend podcast:
Joshua, now 23-1, 21 KOs, defeated American Andy Ruiz easily last Saturday night by 12 round unanimous decision in Saudi Arabia. And, he and his promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, understood that the WBO, in particular, would be wanting Joshua to fight their top guy next.
It had been reported by British media earlier this week that Joshua would try to fight the IBF’s number one contender, 38 year old Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria. Sources told London’s Daily Mail that a Joshua-Pulev fight could potentially take place in either April or May and possibly at the new billion dollar Tottenham Hotspur soccer stadium.
That state of the art venue just re-opened earlier this year and would seat more than 60,000 for a Joshua defense.
Now, as has happened before, Usyk could be given substantial money to “step aside,” for now, as the WBO number one contender with the understanding that he subsequently would get a fight later in 2020 with Joshua.
Of course the risk is like what happened back on June 1st, when Ruiz stunned the previously unbeaten Brit by 7th round TKO That upset all of the plans and fights that Hearn/Matchroom, and Joshua’s team had for him for the second half of 2019 and the first half of 2020.
So instead, they had to focus on a rematch and Joshua getting his titles and some of his credibility back.
As we wrote two weeks ago, Hearn mentioned that he wanted to have Usyk and English contender Derek Chisora fight in February and that he was close to completing negotiations for that fight. The understanding would be that the winner, likely Usyk, would be next for Joshua in the fall of 2020.
Now, we wait to see what political moves, possible “payoffs” or deals are struck on whom Joshua will actually fight next.