Oleksandr Usyk is a problem for Anthony Joshua and a barrier to a potential world heavyweight title unification showdown with Tyson Fury, according to Eddie Hearn.
The Ukrainian former cruiserweight king (17-0) is the WBO’s mandatory contender now at heavyweight, and is due to meet Dereck Chisora (32-9) in late October, assuming COVID-19 pandemic regulations ease enough to allow it to take place in front of a live crowd.
And Hearn says the WBO expects Joshua (23-1) to meet Usyk next if he overcomes Bulgarian veteran Kubrat Pulev (28-1) in his next title defence, likely in early December.
He told DAZN: “AJ’s got the problem of Oleksandr Usyk. I think AJ would quite prefer Dereck Chisora just to stick one on Usyks chin and take that problem.
“Of course the focus for the majority of fight fans is to see the undisputed heavyweight world championship. And that is the focus of Anthony Joshua as I’ve said before. He wants to win the WBC world title, he does want to fight Tyson Fury. But moreover he wants to fight the guy who has that belt. And that’s always been Wilder, and now it’s Fury.
“So we have to try and find a way to maintain our belts as well, and that will be difficult for us to do because the WBO want the winner of Pulev against Joshua to fight Oleksandr Usyk.
“So there’s lots of different permutations, maybe Joshua against Fury is for no belts, just for the calling of the best heavyweight in the world. Who knows what’s gonna happen?
Hearn, who promotes AJ and co-promotes Usyk, re-iterated though that Joshua’s primary goal is to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion, which means a showdown with Usyk may end up delaying that enormous all-British blockbuster against Fury.
“We all want all the belts to be on the line. So maybe you see Joshua fight Usyk if he beats Chisora, in spring/summer of next year and then we do the undisputed fight after. It’s very important to Anthony that the belts are on the line.”
Joshua vs Pulev had been initially scheduled to take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20, but the pandemic put paid to those plans.
Now Hearn is steadfast in his belief that the fight will happen before the end of 2020, possibly behind closed doors.
“We have a date of early December for Anthony Joshua, where we hope live crowds will return,” he said.
“But if they don’t he will have to fight behind closed doors because he wants to advance his career
“It would have been a year since the Andy Ruiz fight. Most fighters right now are having that one-year layoff. It’s not ideal for a career.
“Anthony Joshua will fight this year, crowd or no crowd, and that will be early December, most likely against Kubrat Pulev.”
Fury meanwhile has his own interim engagement before he can look ahead to any meeting with Joshua. That is a trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder for the WBC title, hopefully on Saturday December 19.
The war of words between Fury and Joshua has ramped up noticeably in the days since the defeat of WBC mandatory Dillian Whyte by Alexander Povetkin took one major obstacle out of their way.
Joshua said on Sky’s ‘League Of Their Own’ that he wants to break Fury’s head and would stop him inside six rounds. Fury responded by saying he would batter AJ inside a round.