On Saturday night in London, Oleksandr Usyk pulled off a massive upset against Anthony Joshua to win three of boxing's four recognized world heavyweight championships. Usyk grabbed control of the fight early and closed even stronger, spending the final moments of Round 12 battering Joshua against the ropes to become unified heavyweight champion, winning the WBO, WBA and IBF titles by clear unanimous decision.
While much of the chatter coming into the fight revolved around the potential for Joshua to face WBC champion Tyson Fury to create an undisputed heavyweight champion, the idea of a heavyweight unification bout is now on the shelf for the foreseeable future. Joshua and Fury were scheduled to do just that over the summer only to see the fight fall through when Deontay Wilder won a third fight with Fury after entering arbitration to enforce an existing contract. As a backup, Joshua fought Usyk, a mandatory challenger after moving up from his status as undisputed cruiserweight champion.
As a sport, boxing has fallen into the trap of contractually guaranteeing champions rematches should they fall victim to an upset. That was the case when Joshua was knocked out by Andy Ruiz Jr. and is the case in this latest Joshua loss as it was confirmed ahead of the fight that Joshua had that safety net in place.
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Joshua is unlikely to go back to the drawing board and work his way back to a title shot and will almost certainly invoke his rematch clause, as confirmed by his promoter Eddie Hearn after the fight.
That leaves Fury in an odd spot. Should he beat Wilder again, there's no longer an immediate unification bout on the table. It could also mean that Dillian Whyte finally receives a shot at Fury and the full WBC title that he has been waiting on for years. Whyte is on his second reign as WBC interim champion, a spot that makes him a mandatory opponent for Fury and a spot he has held for the majority of the past several years while Fury has taken bigger and more lucrative bouts.
Usyk bringing that Ukrainian flavour after conquering London 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/5VZ2T5mRhc— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) September 25, 2021
Fury and Wilder fight their trilogy fight on Oct. 9, with Whyte scheduled to defend his interim belt against Otto Wallin on Oct. 30. The timing is right for Whyte to finally get his shot at a world championship, making him the biggest winner aside from Usyk coming out of the fight at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Saturday night.