Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk are likely to fight not once, but twice, for heavyweight supremacy.
The deal for the undisputed heavyweight championship fight, which will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contains a two-way rematch clause that the loser of the matchup can trigger for a return bout, sources told ESPN.
The tentative date for Fury-Usyk is Dec. 23, sources said, though the bout could land in January depending on what transpires when Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) fights former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou on Oct. 28 in Riyadh.
“It is the biggest fight in boxing,” said Turki Alalshikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority.
Fury, one of boxing’s top stars, enters the ring with his WBC belt, while Usyk will put his WBA, WBO and IBF titles on the line. But as is usually the case in boxing, it will be difficult for either man to hold all four titles for long due to obligations with four different sanctioning bodies.
A rotation system for unified champions and the IBF is due next after Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) fulfilled his WBA mandatory defense with a ninth-round KO of Daniel Dubois in August in Wroclaw, Poland.
The IBF sent a letter to involved parties last week that stipulated the winner of Fury-Usyk must make a mandatory defense with no intervening bouts, and that the organization will not grant exceptions.
That means if an immediate rematch takes place, the IBF title won’t be on the line. In that instance, Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic will fight the next available contender for the vacant IBF title.
“The IBF wrote that if I won my last fight and if Usyk beat Dubois that the IBF would enforce my mandatory status to fight Usyk for the title,” Hrogic told ESPN. “The IBF has now allowed Tyson Fury and Usyk to do a unification first. The winner of that fight is mandated to fight me immediately after with no other intervening fight, so I expect to fight for the heavyweight championship early next year.
“I’m disappointed at the delay, but I will stay ready and I won’t let it distract me from my goal of winning the title. Whether against Usyk or Fury, my time is coming.”
Hrgovic (16-0, 13 KOs) is ESPN’s No. 7 heavyweight. The 31-year-old, an Olympic bronze medalist, is coming off a 12th-round TKO of Demsey McKean in August. Hrgovic’s career-best win came last August when he scored a decision victory over Zhilei Zhang (ESPN’s No. 5 heavyweight) in Saudi Arabia.
“Filip is about to be a free agent so myself and the rest of Team Hrgovic will sit down with our longtime partners, Wasserman Boxing and Eddie Hearn, before we speak to anyone else concerning Filip’s future to see what their prospective plan would be moving forward,” said Hrogivc’s manager, Keith Connolly. “Filip is excited about his future and fighting for the heavyweight title in 2024.”
Anthony Joshua, whom Usyk defeated twice for three heavyweight titles, is the next-available contender in the IBF’s rankings after Hrgovic.
England’s Fury, 34, is ESPN’s No. 6 pound-for-pound boxer and No. 1 heavyweight. Ukraine’s Usyk, 36, is ESPN’s No. 3 pound-for-pound boxer and No. 2 heavyweight.