The sanctioning body last week gave AJ 48 hours to show why he should not have to meet the Ukrainian former cruiserweight king and now mandatory challenger for his title.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn applied for a an extension to that timeframe, but the WBO subsequently rejected it.
The end result is team Joshua (24-1) and team Usyk (18-0) now have 10 days from Friday May 21 to reach an agreement for the right, or it will go to purse bids.
Joshua vs Usyk timeline
Joshua vs Usyk became a real possibility early last week when the eagerly-awaited Tyson Fury vs Joshua unification showdown began to unravel. That was courtesy of an arbitration ruling which said Fury must instead face Deontay Wilder in a trilogy fight next.
Fury signed his contract live on TV on Saturday night to face Wilder in Las Vegas on July 24, leaving AJ to find an interim fight before the biggest bout in British history can be rekindled.
Potential dates mooted for Joshua vs Usyk are August 21 and August 28. That would ensure AJ’s head trainer Robert McCracken would be available to head up his corner following the Tokyo Olympics (McCracken has a key role in Team GB).
AJ vs Usyk venue
A venue for Joshua vs Usyk has multiple possibilities. It would seem the most likely scenario is London, with Saudi Arabia (the planned host for Fury vs Joshua) or Kiev less likely.
It is hoped that Fury vs Joshua could still take place before the end of 2021 – assuming they successfully overcome Wilder and Usyk of course.
Their planned showdown in Saudi on August 14 would have crowned the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999. The Saudis had put up a record site fee of $155million (£109million).
Usyk has had two fights at heavyweight since moving up from being the undisputed champion at cruiser. The most recent of those was a hard-fought decision over UK warhorse Dereck Chisora last October.