Millions of boxing fans will tune in to watch Oleksandr Usyk vs Dereck Chisora on Saturday night, but the most interested of all might well be one Anthony Joshua.
A win for Usyk would cement his position as mandatory challenger for AJ’s WBO world heavyweight title. And likely leave the Watford man with one tough decision to make. The chance to become undisputed heavyweight king, or that massive showdown with Tyson Fury. Which does he want most?
Of course Joshua still potentially can have both. But the likelier scenario is that he must either defend against Usyk or vacate the WBO belt. The former would delay his date with destiny against Fury, and put it at risk. The latter would mean no fight for the undisputed title.
It seems highly unlikely that Usyk could be tempted by a financial offer to step aside to allow Fury vs Joshua, and why would he? The Ukrainian maestro (17-0) is already 33 years old and time waits for no man. Particularly in a division where the landscape can change in the blink of an eye (just ask Dillian Whyte).
Last week his co-promoter Alex Krassyuk said as much in an exclusive interview with Furyjoshua.com, revealing: “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.”
There is of course the potential for a hybrid solution which might still suit all parties, one already mooted by Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn.
He is ready to ask whether Usyk and the WBO might be persuaded to wait until after a first Fury vs Joshua fight for mandatory obligations to be met. The result would be as follows:
- Fury vs Joshua happens, likely somewhere between April and June 2021.
- The winner becomes undisputed heavyweight champion.
- The winner then vacates the WBO title, allowing Usyk to fight for it.
- Fury and Joshua then rematch, but not for all of the belts.
This seems unlikely to happen, but it is boxing so nothing can be ruled out. It’s definitely a scenario which would suit Fury and in particular Joshua, who has long had the dream of being the undisputed champion.
But would it suit Usyk? That is the big question.
Of course there is a scenario where all of these ‘what ifs’ are completely irrelevant. If Chisora beats Usyk on Saturday night.
The odds (Usyk is a 1-8 favourite and Chisora a 9-2 underdog) suggest that is also unlikely. But again, it’s heavyweight boxing and only a fool would see this as a foregone conclusion.
Whatever happens, there are extra reasons to tun in to Sky Sports Box Office (price £19.99 for pay-per-view) or DAZN to watch how the next chapter of this fascinating story unfolds. Along with Anthony Joshua and many many more.