Olympic silver medallist Joe Joyce (12-0, 11 KOs) is targeting a rematch with Anthony Joshua’s WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) next, but is unprepared to wait around forever before that proposed bout takes place according to manager Sam Jones. Time is of the essence for the 35-year-old Brit, if he’s to ultimately achieve his world heavyweight title aspirations.
Joyce hoping for Usyk rematch next
Jones has spoken a lot since Joyce’s impressive win over previously undefeated contender Daniel Dubois in late November, both about media coverage suggesting he was a heavy underdog as well as attempts to outline his 2021 schedule.
After an unprecedented 2020, nothing is certain. Nonetheless, that’s not stopping him from trying to arrange a rematch with WBO’s #1 contender Usyk – a bout eight years on from their first.
In five three-minute rounds when both were still amateur prospects, Usyk earned a comfortable decision victory (50-45 x 3) on the judges’ scorecards. Watch it for yourself:
As promoter Eddie Hearn has revealed, Joshua may drop the WBO title to bypass his other mandatory and finally face WBC title-holder Tyson Fury.
However, it’s also a clear conflict of interests, as Hearn oversees both the heavyweight champion and one of his mandatory challengers, who has already waited a while and turns 34 this Sunday.
With all the Joshua retirement talk that has made headlines recently, it’s not as if time is on Usyk’s side either – having moved up after dominating the cruiserweight ranks two years ago.
Fury-Joshua proposed bout holding all the cards
Joyce wants an in-ring return at some stage in April and they’re prepared for multiple eventualities, including a final eliminator, interim WBO title at stake or alternative opponent.
Jones spoke to Sky Sports and on when things will be finalised, he said this:
“The next couple of weeks because Joe wants to fight in April, only 10-11 weeks away. We won’t stall his career.
If it’s a different opponent, then it’s a different opponent – unless the WBO order Joe and Usyk to have a final eliminator.
It is all dependant on the Joshua-Fury situation. Joe would be a big underdog, written off but we’re confident that he would stop Usyk. He is all about goals, looks forwards not backwards, Usyk then the winner of AJ vs Fury.”
Assessing possible contingency plans
Assuming Usyk isn’t next, Arslanbek Makhmudov (11-0, 11 KOs) has been linked with a potential bout vs. Joyce, according to comments from the Russian’s promoter Camille Estephan last week.
Last month, Jones stressed his belief that Joyce had already earned a world title shot and isn’t interested in small fights. Makhmudov is ranked #33 among the world’s heavyweight division according to BoxRec, so a win over the 31-year-old wouldn’t do much for Joe’s reputation.
An interesting opponent to pursue for an April date if the Usyk bout falls through is America’s Michael Hunter (19-1-1), considering Joseph Parker (27-2) and Tony Yoka (9-0) both have bouts next month. Joyce and Hunter are ranked #9 and #10 heavyweights according to BoxRec.
Frank Warren was criticised for his comments in the immediate aftermath of Joyce-Dubois, but has already stated during interviews he intends to secure a world title shot for the 35-year-old at some stage this year. Whether it’s against Usyk for a vacant belt or otherwise, only time will tell.
Picture source: BoxingScene, Eurosport