Heavyweight challenger Joe Joyce has a two-week deadline for Oleksandr Usyk to arrange a fight, according to his manager Sam Jones.
Joyce wants to finalise a deal for a bout with the WBO mandatory challenger, but the negotiations are complicated by Usyk’s desire to fight Anthony Joshua for his belts. However Joshua’s camp is negotiating with the Ukrainian’s representatives in order to get an agreement to delay his claim to a fight.
Joshua is considering vacating the WBO belt to ensure he can move straight to a unification fight with Tyson Fury, but he would prefer to set up a fight that could make the winner of that fight the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. If Joshua does relinquish the belt, it could make an Usyk vs Joyce fight the strong favourite to contest the vacant WBO championship.
Jones told Sky Sports that Joyce has limited patience to arrange a fight, because he is aiming to be in the ring for April.
"The next couple of weeks because Joe wants to fight in April which is only 10 or 11 weeks away," Jones told said.
"Joe will fight in April. We won't stall his career. If it's a different opponent then it's a different opponent, unless the WBO order Joe and Uysk to have a final eliminator.
"It is all dependent on the Joshua-Fury situation. We have made it clear to Frank Warren, Joe's promoter, that we want to fight Usyk even if it's an interim title fight.
"Joe would be a big underdog and would be written off but we're confident that he would stop Usyk.
"Joe is all about goals, he looks forwards not backwards. He wants Usyk then the winner of AJ vs Fury."
Joyce last fought in November to spoil Daniel Dubois’ undefeated record, and one alternative to Usyk could be Dereck Chisora, who was defeated by Usyk himself in his last fight in October.
A fight between Chisora and Joyce would represent a role reversal for the pair.
"There has been talk but Dereck has been offered a fight with Joe on four occasions and each time he has said no," Jones explained.
"Derek hasn't wanted to fight Joe but now it's convenient so he does want to fight.
"Now, Derek needs Joe. So who knows?
"Derek doesn't get Joe's fists tingling. If the fans are interested then Joe will listen because he wants fan-friendly fights.
"Joe doesn't want any gimmicky fights. He isn't interested in meaningless fights.
"Joe is not prepared to do a 'gimme' fight. He can't get motivated by that. He's 35 years old and an Olympic silver medallist. He wants to keep his momentum and he wants to fight a big name."
While Joyce is targeting a world title, his British, European, Commonwealth, WBC silver and WBO international belts represent an attractive target for boxers ranked below him.