Oleksandr Usyk’s team have expressed their desire for a heavyweight showdown with Anthony Joshua in 2019, promoter Eddie Hearn has confirmed.
The Ukrainian holds ambitions of challenging for titles in the top division, but must first overcome Tony Bellew at Manchester Arena on Saturday night, live on Sky Sports Box Office, with all four of Usyk’s world cruiserweight belts at stake.
Matchroom Boxing boss Hearn has already secured a multi-fight deal with Usyk and admits he could become Joshua’s second opponent next year, with the unified heavyweight champion due to make his first defence at Wembley Stadium on April 13.
Asked when Usyk will move up to heavyweight, Hearn told Sky Sports: “After the Bellew fight.
“Basically if Usyk wins this fight, and probably if he loses this fight, he goes to heavyweight straight away.
“That’s [Joshua] the one they want.”
Discussing a possible timescale for a Usyk fight, Hearn added: “Joshua will only fight twice next year, so it will be the one after.
“It won’t be the first one, because I think Usyk will want to fight at heavyweight first. There are loads of fights out there for him.”
Joshua still hopes his opening fight of the year could be against Deontay Wilder, who defends his WBC title against Tyson Fury on December 1, while Dillian Whyte is also being considered as an alternative opponent for April.
But ‘AJ’ has already identified a method to defeat Usyk, if they share the ring in the future, and believes fellow Brit Bellew can deliver a fight-ending punch this weekend.
“Usyk is really like a perfect boxer,” Joshua told Sky Sports. “I hope Bellew is working on his counter punches as well, because that’s the way to knock him out I think.
“Let him tippy tap, and get in his rhythm, and then just kind of explode. As we’ve seen, Bellew can counter punch, and he’s got a dirty left hook on him.
“If he can land that, I think he’ll do well.”