‘Ball is in Hearn’s court’: WBO blow for Fury vs Joshua

The World Boxing Organization (WBO) has delivered a major blow to hopes of a Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua showdown for the undisputed world heavyweight title.

It had been hoped the pair would meet next summer following Joshua’s demolition of Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night.

Joshua was impressive in dismantling the 39-year-old Pulev en route to a ninth-round knockout victory. And all the immediate post-fight talk was of Fury vs Joshua – when it will be announced and when it will take place.

But not so fast. Boxing’s notoriously complicated politics are about to have a say in this huge matter. In this instance the WBO, which has Oleksandr Usyk as its mandatory challenger to the belt currently held by Joshua.

WBO chief re-iterates Fury vs Joshua stance

The body has steadfastly maintained that Joshua must defend against Usyk once he had dealt with Pulev. And its President Paco Valcarcel re-iterated that stance immediately after AJ had disposed of Pulev.

He praised AJ for his performance but ended his Tweet by saying: “As to the WBO belt, Eddie Hearn knows the meaning of commitment; the ball is in Hearn’s court.”

When the prospect of an exception allowing AJ a voluntary defence was raised by DAZN/SI analyst Chris Mannix, Valcarcel shot that possibility down immediately, replying: “Exception 1.Andy Ruiz rematch 2.Pulev…”

It is likely there will now be a tense wait to find out if a solution can be found which allows Fury and Joshua to meet without any further interim assignments.

Usyk unlikely to step aside

Usyk has said in the past that he would not step aside, and his co-promoter Alex Krassyuk has re-iterated that he would not ask him to.

Krassyuk had told Furyjoshua.com back in October: “The final decision always belongs to the fighter, but I will never advise him to take money to step aside. And I can explain to you why.

“Disputing the world title in the heavyweight division is not a matter of money – it is a matter of heritage. Money may run out some day, but the championship will stay forever.

“In 20 years he will tell his grandchildren about his career, and he would not feel comfortable telling them he stepped aside for money instead of insisting on challenging for the title.”

Joshua of course could vacate the WBO title, allowing him to meet Fury immediately. But that would mean their clash would no longer be for the undisputed heavyweight title – a mantle AJ craves.
Hearn meanwhile has mooted a potential solution whereby Fury and Joshua would have their first fight and the winner would vacate the following day. At this stage – as ever with boxing politics – the situation is complicated. We await further developments.