Joe Joyce and Oleksandr Usyk are on course to fight to become the WBO interim heavyweight title holder, according to the Briton’s manager.
Usyk is currently the WBO mandatory challenger after stepping up from the cruiserweight division to take the designation, and now appears to have delayed his challenge with Anthony Joshua by delaying that option.
After beating Daniel Dubois last year, Joyce has stepped up the rankings to become the second-highest ranked fighter in the WBO behind Usyk, meaning that in order to keep the best talent in the grouping active, the Ukrainian will now face Joyce.
Usyk fought and beat Dereck Chisora in his last outing, but with Tyson Fury set to agree a deal to face Joshua the challengers will fight for the chance to fight the winner of that bout, assuming they do not vacate the belt.
Adam Morallee, part of Joyce’s S-JAM management team, informed ESPN that talks are underway with Usyk’s camp.
"It looks like a fight for the WBO interim title is what will happen next, and securing a fight with Usyk is our priority," Morallee said.
"I think Usyk should be Joe's next fight and in terms of timing I think it happens in the second quarter of this year. I understand the WBO has stipulated they have to fight in five to six months.
"Joe's ambition is to become undisputed champion and if he beats Usyk, he would then fight Joshua or Fury, and if he doesn't fight either of them next he would fight for the WBO title.
"The WBO want their titles active and that's why they want to order Usyk-Joe for the interim title, and it will get upgraded to the full title if Fury or Joshua don't fight the winner [of Joyce versus Usyk]. Our promoter Frank Warren is liaising with the WBO and Usyk's people, and it's a fluid situation. I'm hopeful we can get it done."