The road to becoming the first undisputed world heavyweight champion since 2000 is clear once again.
Oleksandr Usyk has the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts. Tyson Fury, for the time being at least, has the WBC title.
And they both want to fight each other.
“Hey, Tyson,” Usyk said after winning his rematch with Anthony Joshua on a split decision in Saudi Arabia on Saturday. “Back in ring, please, back in ring.”
Fury, after all, says he is retired, although that stance is being widely greeted with skepticism.
Indeed, after the Usyk-Joshya rematch, Fury said in a video he would be willing to take on Usyk.
For the right price.
“England has been relieved of its belts, yet again, as usual, but there is a remedy and a solution that I can suggest,” Fury said in the video published by boxing media company iFL TV. “If you want those belts back, then send in the Gypsy barbarian of England. Come on. Send me in.
“But it’s not going to be cheap. If you want the best, then you’ve got to pay. It’s going to be very expensive. So get your checkbook out.”
Fury hasn’t fought since knocking out Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium in April, after which he said he was retiring as “the best heavyweight there has ever been” because he had given his word to his wife, Paris.
Since then, he has said he’d be returning to boxing in order to set up a fight against Derek Chisora, a fellow Briton whom he beat twice early in his career.
Three days later, he said he had had a change of heart and had decided to “walk away.”
It’s clear Fury could be tempted back into the ring and what better fight to return to than for the opportunity to be the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis, who held all the belts from 1999-2000 before being stripped of the WBA title.
Usyk-Fury would be one of the biggest fights in a generation, with the added intrigue that both boxers are undefeated. Usyk was also undisputed cruiserweight champion from 2018-19.
As for Joshua, for so long the box-office name in the heavyweight division, he is on the outside looking in after falling to back-to-back losses to Usyk to add to his defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019.
That’s three losses in five fights, piercing the aura of a British boxer who sold out big stadiums and was once regarded as a knockout machine.
Dismissing talk of retirement, the 32-year-old Joshua said he plans to return to the ring in December and work his way back up to being a three-time champion. That would mean toiling away for now in the division’s second tier, with the likes of Dillian Whyte and Deontay Wilder potential opponents if he chooses to first see off some less dangerous fighters.
“I spoke to Eddie,” Joshua said, referring to his promoter, Eddie Hearn, “and asked him if it’s possible to get out in November because momentum is important in boxing. Eddie said December.
“If it’s about who I fight, it’s come one, come all. Whoever wants it can get it, I don’t mind.”
Joshua recently signed a long-term deal with DAZN, worth a reported $100 million, for the platform to show his next fights.
“We want to see AJ active,” Hearn said. “There have been too many gaps between fights.
“I would like to see him get back to enjoying himself, get back to the pressures of working his way back up to the championship belt. Now he will actually really start to enjoy himself.”
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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80