Anthony Joshua has been ordered to fight Oleksandr Usyk by the WBO, and his promoter Eddie Hearn told he only has until the end of May to agree terms with the Ukrainian or purse bids will be called.
Joshua holds three of the heavyweight world title belts: the WBA, IBF and WBO, while rival Tyson Fury has the WBC strap.
The men had hoped to meet in Saudi Arabia on August 14 to see who would become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
However, on Monday a US judge in a court of arbitration hearing told Fury he must fight Deontay Wilder for a third time due to a previous contractual agreement between the pair.
And the WBO has followed suit in demanding that Joshua now faces Usyk, who was made the organisation’s mandatory challenger in June 2019 and used to be promoted by Hearn.
On Wednesday the WBO gave Joshua’s promoter Hearn 48 hours to explain his position when it came to the fight with Usyk and the Matchroom chairman responded by asking for an extension until Monday.
However, in an email to the respective parties, WBO chairman Luis Batista Salas said: “Team Usyk’s legal counsel, Mr. Patrick English, Esq., filed an email correspondence objecting to Mr. Hearn’s request and arguing that the foregoing is unreasonable and that Usyk is entitled to enforce his rights as mandatory challenger and consequently, Mr. Joshua shall proceed with his mandatory or vacate the title.
“Wherefore, having exchanged numerous internal communications with Team Joshua, having granted Team Joshua multiple extensions, having reviewed all relevant communications between Team Joshua/Team Usyk, having examined the parties arguments and positions regarding the subject matter, and having considered that sufficient time has elapsed on the matter before this Committee, and pursuant with our WBO Rules and Regulations of World Championship Contests and their enforcement in these matters, it is hereby ruled as follows: The extension request is hereby denied.
“In light of the foregoing, the parties are hereby granted 10 days upon issuance of this notice to negotiate and reach an agreement for the WBO Heavyweight Mandatory Championship Contest between Joshua/Usyk, or a purse bid ceremony will be called immediately per WBO Rules and Regulations of World Championship Contests.”
With the email being sent out on Friday, it means Hearn has until Monday, May 31 to reach an agreement with Usyk or purse bids will be opened to other promoters.
Later in the statement, Salas went on to add that the split ratio between Joshua and Usyk can be no more than 80/20 in the Watford fighter’s favour and that the minimum acceptable bid would be $1million (£710,000), although it is highly unlikely it would have been that low any way considering the sums Joshua earns from fights.
The news that Joshua will have to fight Usyk and Fury has to take on Wilder has come as a major blow to both camps.
A superfight between the Brits was first announced more than 11 months ago and neither party expected Wilder to be successful in forcing a third fight.
When Fury knocked out Wilder in the seventh round in February 2020, the American activated a clause in the contract insisting on a third fight.
It had initially been pencilled in for July 2020, then pushed back to October and then December.
In the end Fury’s camp moved on with the plan to fight Joshua and both teams have remained extremely confident it would go ahead. That is until the announcement from arbitrator Daniel Weinstein on Monday.
Now, it looks likely to be Wilder on July 24 for Fury, while Joshua will need to fight Usyk or vacate the belt, unless an alternative financial agreement can be made with the former unified cruiserweight champion.