Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder 3 'must happen this year' or Dillian Whyte should be the next challenger for the WBC title, says promoter Eddie Hearn.
The WBC has confirmed the winner of Fury-Wilder 3 must make a mandatory title defence against Whyte in early 2021.
But Fury's US promoter Bob Arum has suggested the trilogy fight might be pushed back until February and Hearn says Whyte could even replace Wilder, if he defeats Alexander Povetkin on August 22, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
He told Sky Sports: "Well I'm hearing what we hoped the WBC would enforce, which is the promise that fight has to happen.
"The official date is before the end of February 2021. Obviously if Wilder-Fury takes place in December, maybe that gets pushed back a little bit.
"Great news for Dillian Whyte who has been pushing so hard, fully deserves this shot more than any fighter in boxing, forget the heavyweight division, but he does have business to attend to on August 22 against Alexander Povetkin.
"That makes that fight even more dangerous, but as far as we're concerned Fury-Wilder must happen this year, and if it doesn't we're ready to go with Whyte against Fury, subject to him beating Povetkin in a couple of weeks' time."
Anthony Joshua and Fury have agreed terms in principle on a two-fight deal for an undisputed world title clash next year, although the unified champion's mandatory commitments could complicate his plans.
IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev is set to face Joshua in December, while Oleksandr Usyk has also lined up a mandated WBO title shot, if the Ukrainian wins a rescheduled fight against Derek Chisora.
"AJ is going to box in December and he won't box again until June or July of next year, so there's plenty of time to fit in that mandatory defence," said Hearn.
"AJ himself may have a mandatory defence against Oleksandr Usyk if Derek Chisora doesn't upset the odds in that fight.
"Plenty of hurdles to overcome but certainly for Dillian Whyte, who has been pushing so hard for a world championship shot, this makes the Alexander Povektin fight look even more vital."