WBO holds final key to Fury vs Joshua puzzle

The uppercut with which Alexander Povetkin floored Dillian Whyte last Saturday night removed a massive obstacle in the way of a Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua superfight. But one still remains in the shape of the WBO.

That shock fifth-round stoppage defeat for Whyte at Matchroom Fight Camp means the winner of Fury vs Deontay Wilder 3 (potential date Saturday December 19) no longer has any WBC mandatory commitments for at least one year, leaving the way clear for a unification match.

Fury vs Joshua fight poster
Fury and Joshua are expected to meet next summer.

The World Boxing Organisation (WBO) however still has the final card to play, with former cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk sitting and waiting patiently for a title shot.

Usyk (17-0) was made mandatory immediately he moved up to the heavyweight division last year, and has fought only once so far in boxing’s marquee weight class, a stoppage defeat of Chazz Witherspoon in Chicago in October. He is currently expected to face UK veteran Dereck Chisora (32-9) next in a pay-per-view affair, potentially in late October.

In recent weeks Usyk’s team have said they expect current WBO king Joshua to fight their man once he has finally had his meeting with IBF mandatory contender Kubrat Pulev.

But it remains to be seen whether the WBO will push hard for that fight to happen before any potential Fury vs Joshua showdown.

Joshua vs Pulev – delayed from its initial June 20 date due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – is now expected to happen in December with AJ’s promoter Eddie Hearn admitting there is “a strong possibility” it will take place behind closed doors.

Then – assuming Joshua and Fury both prevail in their December matches – it would appear the coast is clear for them to lock horns in the biggest fight in British boxing history next summer (they already have the bones of a two-fight deal agreed).

But the WBO could of course throw a massive spanner in the works if they demand Joshua faces Usyk next if he overcomes Pulev. If Joshua were to then vacate the title in order to meet Fury (unlikely), any fight between them would no longer be for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

To add to the complicated picture, Usyk is co-promoted by Hearn, who obviously promotes Joshua.

The WBO as yet has not responded to an email from furyjoshua.com requesting clarification on the Usyk mandatory situation and any resulting timeline.