Anthony Joshua could have his next opponent quickly -- even if it isn't Tyson Fury.
In a video released Tuesday by Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing indicated that a bout between Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk is a possibility if Fury is unavailable this summer. Hearn's comments came one day after an arbitrator ruled Fury must give Deontay Wilder a rematch by Sept. 15.
The latest development comes as Joshua's and Fury's respective camps were putting the finishing touches on a potential unification bout on Aug. 14 in Saudi Arabia, which would crown an undisputed heavyweight champion but now appears to be in jeopardy.
Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs), the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, is the mandatory challenger for Joshua's WBO belt. A Joshua-Usyk bout would give Fury time to fulfill his contractual obligation to Wilder while maintaining the possibility of a unification bout by the end of 2021. Hearn said he spoke to Usyk's promoter and told him there's a "good chance" Joshua will face Usyk if Fury isn't an immediate option.
In a letter sent to the WBO by his attorney, Patrick English, Usyk asked the WBO to respect Usyk's status as the mandatory challenger to Joshua. The letter explicitly said Usyk wants the WBO to immediately "direct Joshua to fulfill his mandatory obligation or to give up the title."
The letter adds: "We do not care if Mr. Fury fights Anthony Joshua. We do not care if he fights Deontay Wilder. We do care if either fights impairs in any way the right of Oleksandr Usyk to be [in the] next WBO title bout."
The request lines up with Hearn's vision for an alternate plan if Joshua-Fury can't occur this summer.
"It would be in an ideal world, if the right deal could be done, to maintain those belts and to keep the Fury fight alive for probably December but for the undisputed [title] as well," Hearn said in the Matchroom video.
Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) holds three of the four major belts, and Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) has the other one. Their promoters have been in extended negotiations for an all-British summer showdown.
Hearn said he will have "no option but to look for an alternative fight" if Fury can't get the Wilder situation ironed out. Top Rank's Bob Arum, Fury's co-promoter, said in a statement to ESPN on Monday that it'd be better to face Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) instead of paying him to step aside. Fury and Wilder have fought twice. Their 2018 bout was a draw, and Fury won the 2020 rematch with a seventh-round stoppage. Joshua is eager to fight this summer, Hearn said, and to maintain his status as a unified champion.
"We want to be in a position by the end of this week to know are we fighting Tyson Fury or are we moving forward with another option," Hearn said.