Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury 'bigger than belts', says Eddie Hearn in warning to WBO
Eddie Hearn on talks to pit Anthony Joshua against Tyson Fury: "Now is a pivotal time in terms of belts and politics because we can't afford to necessarily be restricted by the rules and requirements of governing bodies"
Last Updated: 15/01/21 2:14pm
Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury's collision course could be the moment to "take charge of the sport" with a new attitude towards the recognised championship belts, says promoter Eddie Hearn.
IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua and WBC title holder Fury are deep in negotiations over two fights this year which would crown the division's undisputed No 1.
But two of the main stumbling blocks are Oleksandr Usyk's status as WBO mandatory challenger and Deontay Wilder's claim for another chance at the WBC title.
Fury and Wilder's dispute is "not an issue", according to Hearn, but Usyk is digging his heels in - the Ukrainian's promoter Alexander Krassyuk told Sky Sports that they "never gave consent" to the proposed undisputed title fight.
Hearn told Sky Sports: "I spoke to [WBO president Paco Valcarcel] and said: 'You are in a tough spot because, probably, in a couple of weeks' time I will write to you and say that we've made one of the biggest fights in boxing history'.
"'Paco, are you on board?'
"He will say: 'Have you spoken to Usyk?'
"I will say: 'Not yet. I am asking you - do you want to sanction this fight or not?'
"He will either say 'yes, on you go' or 'I can't until you talk to Usyk'.
"Then I'd go and talk to Usyk.
🚫WILL USYK STOP UNDISPUTED FIGHT?😬@EddieHearn told Toe2Toe he doesn't think @usykaa will prevent the AJ Fury undisputed fight... and @JoeJoyceBoxing may come into play🚛🤔— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) January 14, 2021
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"Imagine my conversation with Fury and Joshua: 'To keep all the belts on the line you've got to pay three per cent to the governing bodies [which equals] £1.5m you both individually have to pay plus Usyk wants a couple of million'.
"They would say: 'What?'
"This fight is bigger than the belts. This is undisputed. AJ wants to be the undisputed champion but isn't this fight even bigger than that?
"Isn't this fight the answer to all of our questions?
"Who is the best? Who is the baddest man on the planet? Who is the best heavyweight?
"At some point we have to take charge of the sport and say: 'No more'.
"But first I will do everything that I can to keep the belts on the line. For me, that is the glory - seeing AJ covered in every bit of silverware. That has always been his aim.
"Once they've fought for the undisputed championship, if the belts become fragmented then so be it. But I'd just love that moment [to crown an undisputed champion]."
Usyk won gold alongside Joshua at the 2012 Olympics and has since become the inaugural World Boxing Super Series winner and undisputed cruiserweight champion.
He most recently outpointed Derek Chisora to maintain his status as the WBO mandatory challenger, and has so far shown no willingness to forego his opportunity.
"We could say to Usyk: 'Set a fight with Joe Joyce, maybe for the interim belt'," said Hearn.
"Usyk is a classy guy. He is a boxing guy through and through.
"Even in his position he will see that AJ vs Fury is so good for boxing. Does he want to stop the undisputed championship fight?
"The fans won't like it, if he does.
"But we can't just disrespect him and say: 'Wait'.
"We have to come up with something. The answer that I see is for him to fight Joe Joyce."
Joyce is ranked at No 2 with the WBO and, if Joshua chose to vacate the belt, would be in line to fight Usyk for the title.
The undefeated Joyce enjoyed a career-best win by ending Daniel Dubois' perfect rise in October but has set a two-week deadline on the possibility of fighting Usyk, with his manager Sam Jones insisting they will not "stall his career".
Joshua's promoter Hearn believes the negotiations to fight Fury could be a game-changing moment.
"Now is a pivotal time in terms of belts and politics because we can't afford to necessarily be restricted by the rules and requirements of governing bodies," he said.
"For example [IBF featherweight champion] Josh Warrington's mandatory is now Kid Galahad. They already had a good fight and Warrington now wants [the other champions in his division] Gary Russell Jr, Emanuel Navarrete, Can Xu.
"The IBF are making it difficult for him to have that big fight. But big fights are what we need in boxing!
"At the same time you can't just disregard a mandatory challenger like Galahad or Usyk by saying: 'Sorry mate, you've got to wait!'"
Fury's US-based promoter Bob Arum told Sky Sports that he was "95 per cent" certain a deal would be struck to fight Joshua in 2021, and Hearn added that talks were "going well".