Tony Bellew vs Tyson Fury will happen next year, according to promoter Eddie Hearn, who revealed that he has spoken to both fighters about agreeing a deal.
Bellew's priority remains rescheduling his rematch against David Haye, who withdrew injured from their December 17 date leading to Fury's offer to replace him.
"I believe you will see Bellew vs Fury in 2018 but it won't be the next one," Hearn exclusively told Sky Sports.
People want to see Bellew vs Fury. But, what we cannot do because Tony hasn't fought for nine months, is wait for Fury.
"My plan for Tony Bellew is to beat David Haye then fight Tyson Fury. By the time he beats Haye, the Fury [anti-doping hearing] situation may be in the clear.
"Tony has had discussions with Fury. We have had discussions. I spoke to Fury about that fight.
"Fury has joined up with [management company] MTK so we will speak to those guys about the fight.
"It's quite a simple deal but it's about timing of when the fight takes place."
They say I’m scared to face the giants of the division so ya know what I’ll do? I’ll fight the biggest of them all, Tyson “Stavros Flatley” Fury anytime... Get your hearing sorted @Tyson_Fury , I’ll fold you like a deck chair son! 👊 #BiggerTheyAreTheHarderTheyFall https://t.co/e0IROG9ajR— Tony Bellew (@TonyBellew) November 25, 2017
Fury's anti-doping hearing, set to resume next month, means he is still ineligible to schedule a fight despite his planned return so Bellew vs Haye will still be targeted for "the end of April or May 5".
"People want to see Bellew vs Fury. But, what we cannot do because Tony hasn't fought for nine months, is wait for Fury," Hearn said.
"We can't plan a fight with someone who has a UKAD hearing, and has to go in front of the British Boxing Board of Control.
"Tony believes he has the style to beat Fury. And Fury is not the puncher that Deontay Wilder or Anthony Joshua are. When you go up from light-heavyweight to cruiserweight to heavyweight, your big disadvantage is the punch power.
"Fury is extremely skilled but he is not a big puncher. I'm not saying he isn't a puncher. But he isn't a devastating one-punch knockout artist, like the others. So Tony believes he can beat him."
Bellew, who beat Haye last March, will not take an interim fight before their rematch, according to Hearn, despite initially offering to do so.
"Haye is extremely driven to make the [Bellew rematch]," Hearn said. "He has a clear mind, he is an athlete, and he will do everything he can to be 100 per cent ready for Bellew."