Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk could face delay if no date announcement this week
British boxer Anthony Joshua and Ukraine hero Oleksandr Usyk are still awaiting final confirmation of their unified heavyweight title rematch as the clock ticks down on summer date
Anthony Joshua could face a further wait for his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk if the deal to take the fight to Saudi Arabia is not completed this week.
The British heavyweight is due to take on the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion on July 23 in the Middle East but the final details have still yet to be ironed out. The clock is ticking to get the deal sorted in time for the rematch to go ahead on July 23.
Promoter Eddie Hearn wants enough time to build the fight with a media tour and other press obligations as they bid to sell the clash around the world. But there is just over eight weeks to go to the proposed date.
Hearn has admitted he may have to push the highly-anticipated duel back another week or even into August. The reason for the delay remains unknown.
Neither man has fought since Usyk outpointed Joshua in front of 60,000 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium back in September. The delay has angered fans who want to see both men back in the ring.
Joshua, 32, has been in training camp for a number of weeks now, working with new head coach Angel Fernandez at Loughborough University. Ukraine star Usyk was involved in helping to defend his country against the Russian invasion but has since left his homeland and is in training somewhere in Europe.
Joshua immediately triggered his rematch clause when he lost to Usyk but the return fight has been plagued by delays. Joshua has made changes to his training team with head coach Rob McCracken ditched in favour of Fernandez.
Then there was talk of a step aside fee to allow Usyk to face WBC champion Tyson Fury in an undisputed clash in the Middle East. Those discussions collapsed at the final hurdle so Fury faced Dillian Whyte, his mandatory challenger, instead.
That left Joshua and Usyk to finalise their deal but then Russia invaded Ukraine which saw the world heavyweight champion drafted into action to protect his homeland. Usyk, who also had a shoulder injury to overcome, has been out of Ukraine for six weeks now and preparing for the rematch.
“I think there’s a very good chance you’ll see that fight July 23 in the Middle East,” Promoter Eddie Hearn told iFL TV earlier this month. “We have had a number of offers from around the world. We have been working through those and we’re closing in on that option. Team Usyk have stressed that that’s the option they would prefer because obviously it’s a lot of money.
“Quite frankly I think Team Usyk would rather a neutral venue and I don’t blame them for that. So that’s where we’re at. Do we announce this week? Probably not. But do we announce next week? Almost certainly. You will see that fight, you will see that fight in July and you’ll get an official announcement soon.”
The finer details of the rematch contract means the Ukrainian has the final say on the location of the return fight if there is a larger purse on offer elsewhere. The initial plan was to stage the second fight at Wembley or back at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
But the Saudis have put forward a massive fee to bring Joshua, who beat Andy Ruiz in Riyadh in 2019, back to the Gulf state. Because of the searing summer temperatures in Saudi, the fight will take place in a purpose-built indoor venue.
That is set to be in Jeddah, the coastal city, rather than the capital where Joshua fought Ruiz. British fans are set to be angered by the location while Joshua and Usyk will come under criticism from human rights groups for going to Saudi. Amnesty International heavily criticised Joshua for going there in 2019 when he pocketed more than £40m for the fight.