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The state of play as Oleksandr Usyk becomes undisputed heavyweight champion of the world

We take a look at what Oleksandr Usyk's monumental victory over Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night means for the heavyweight division.


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After a 24-year wait, the heavyweight division has a new undisputed king... and he hails from the Ukraine!

Oleksandr Usyk further cemented his boxing legacy by becoming the first fully unified title holder in the blue-riband division after beating Tyson Fury in dramatic fashion in Riyadh.

But the big question now is what his triumph means for the rest of the heavyweight division?

Well, we already know that Fury will invoke his rematch clause, likely for an October Middle East showdown, but it's unlikely that all four official governing body belts will be on the line the next time the pair do lock horns.

As history has proven, all of the marbles rarely stay in the grasp of one fighter for a prolonged period of time, with mandatory defences called and politics also more than playing their part.

So what can we expect over the coming weeks and months?

Mark Mothershaw and John MacDermott try to make sense of the current state of play with all four official governing bodies, and just how things could play out...

IBF heavyweight title

Most likely next IBF heavyweight title fight:
Filip Hrgovic v Daniel Dubois (Saturday 1st June, 2024)

The IBF are the most stringent of the major sanctioning bodies when it comes to mandatory defences.

Their policy states that a heavyweight champion must defend the title against the leading available contender within one year of winning the belt, and subsequent mandatory defences will take place at intervals of no more than nine months.

However, after capturing the strap from Anthony Joshua in 2021, Usyk failed to make a single mandatory defence of the title.

A clause in the contract for the fight between the Ukrainian and Fury stated that the winner would have to vacate the championship within two weeks of the undisputed bout, as a mandatory defence against Filip Hrgovic was overdue.

‘El Animal’ earned his position with a disputed decision over Zhilei Zhang, in 2022, so has patiently waited for his opportunity for almost two years.

Now given the belt, as we expect, is vacated by Usyk in the next week or two, then a new heavyweight titlist will enter the fray on Saturday 1st June when the Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medallist challenges Britain's Daniel Dubois for the IBF strap.

A further twist to this tale means that Anthony Joshua, who is expected to take on the winner of Hrgovic and Dubois later this year given his position as the number three on the IBF's ranking list, could become a three-time heavyweight champion in 2024.

Turki Alalshikh has already expressed interest in making the fight, with a view to staging a second undisputed bout in 2025, with the then IBF strap holder taking on whoever prevails in the expected Autumn rematch between Usyk and Fury.

Current IBF heavyweight top five rankings:

  1. Filip Hrgovic
  2. Not Rated
  3. Anthony Joshua
  4. Daniel Dubois
  5. Jared Anderson

WBA heavyweight title

Most likely next WBA heavyweight title fight:
Oleksandr Usyk v Tyson Fury (October, 2024)

Usyk fulfilled his mandatory obligations by facing then-WBA ‘Regular’ belt holder Daniel Dubois, in August last year.

The fight ended in controversy as you may remember, with Usyk needing a prolonged period of time to recover from a body shot that some observers felt was a low blow.

The Ukrainian subsequently bounced back to halt the Englishman in the ninth round.

German contender Manuel Charr currently holds the sanctioning body’s 'Regular' title having been reinstated after a lengthy legal battle with the WBA and Don King.

He will defend his strap against Kubrat Pulev, in September.

The highest ranked contender in their rankings is the dangerous Martin Bakole, who currently fights under the BOXXER banner.

However, despite their elevated positions in the WBA rankings, it's unlikely that any mandatory opportunity is likely to be called in the next six months or so - freeing the bigger names in the division to collide.

Current WBA heavyweight top five rankings:

  1. Manuel Charr
  2. Martin Bakole
  3. Anthony Joshua
  4. Daniel Dubois
  5. Frank Sanchez

WBO heavyweight title

Most likely next WBO heavyweight title fight:
Oleksandr Usyk v Tyson Fury (October, 2024)

The last WBO mandatory defence was when Usyk usurped Joshua to become heavyweight champion.

Since then, three men have been designated as the mandatory challenger.

Joe Joyce was the first to earn the distinction by stopping Joseph Parker, to become ‘Interim’ champion.

‘The Juggernaut’ then lost the belt, and his place in the queue, to the hard-hitting Chinese fighter Zhilei Zhang, and was not able to earn it back through a rematch.

Earlier this year, former world champion Parker overcame Zhang by majority decision, in hugely impressive fashion, to retain his position as the current WBO mandatory challenger.

Following the expected vacation of the IBF title, it's likely that the WBO would be the next sanctioning body to call for a mandatory defence, but when that will be is unclear.

Current WBO heavyweight top five rankings:

  1. Joseph Parker
  2. Anthony Joshua
  3. Zhilei Zhang
  4. Frank Sanchez
  5. Jared Anderson

WBC heavyweight title

Most likely next WBC heavyweight title fight:
Oleksandr Usyk v Tyson Fury (October, 2024)

In 2022, Fury took care of his mandatory obligations by halting Dillian Whyte, in the sixth round.

At present, fellow Englishman Joshua is ranked as the number one contender with the sanctioning body, but is also rated amongst the top three in each of the other official organisations too.

It remains to be seen what direction ‘AJ’ will go in, but an IBF title shot against either Hrgovic or Dubois in the second half of the year seems his most likely direction.

Prior to Saturday night Frank Sanchez was the highest ranked contender with the WBC, but his spot has now been taken by Agit Kabayel after the German upset the Cuban on the undercard of the undisputed showdown.

Joshua's potential IBF pathway means that Kabayel will become mandatory challenger for the WBC belt, although it's expected that he will be forced to wait at least a year for his title opportunity.

Current WBC heavyweight top five rankings:

  1. Anthony Joshua
  2. Agit Kabayel
  3. Frank Sanchez
  4. Efe Ajagba
  5. Jared Anderson


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