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Anthony Joshua Won't Be Stripped of WBO Title for Taking Tyson Fury Fight

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIJanuary 30, 2021

World Heavyweight boxing champion Britain's Anthony Joshua lands a blow on challenger Bulgaria's Kubrat Pulev during their Heavyweight title fight at Wembley Arena in London Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. (Andrew Couldridge/Pool via AP)
Andrew Couldridge/Associated Press

The WBO will not strip Anthony Joshua of his heavyweight title for taking a unification fight against Tyson Fury, according to The Athletic's Lance Pugmire

Instead, the organization has ordered heavyweight contender Oleksandr Usyk to negotiate a fight with Joe Joyce for the interim title in the next 15 days. The bout must take place within 90 days of the completed agreement. 

Per a WBO letter from attorney Luis Batista Salas reviewed by Pugmire:

“The winner of the Joshua-Fury bout must face, within 180 days after said fight, the winner of the Usyk-Joyce bout. Non-compliance with this condition will result in the WBO world heavyweight championship title being declared ‘vacant,’ with the interim heavyweight champion being elevated to WBO world-champion status.”

Joshua and Fury agreed to a two-fight deal last June with the first of the bouts likely to take place between the spring and summer of 2021. 

Fury (30-0, 21 KOs) has been out of the ring since defeating Deontay Wilder via technical knockout in Feb. 2020 to claim the WBC heavyweight title. A trilogy fight against Wilder is expected in the near future. Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs), meanwhile, last defeated Kubrat Pulev via ninth-round knockout on December 12 in London to retain the IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles.

The WBO has already planned around a Wilder-Fury rematch interrupting a contest against the winner of Usyk-Joyce.

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Per Pugmire: 

"The WBO addressed that issue in its letter, writing that with Joshua-Fury expected to occur 'in the summer of 2021 … if the Joshua-Fury bout does not take place during the aforementioned period, the WBO championship committee reserves the right to order the WBO heavyweight championship versus the winner of the Usyk-Joyce bout within 180 days after said bout, and with the conditions outlined herein remaining in full force and effect, as they are intimately related to one another, and therefore, it is necessary to state such in this letter.'

"The WBO added that language after earlier composing a Monday letter because it ideally wants all four belts on the line in the Joshua-Fury clash."

The decision guarantees fight fans will get what they want: two guaranteed megafights with plenty of belts on the line. 

The WBO will just have to momentarily take a backseat in order to make it happen.