Oleksandr Usyk vs Tony Bellew ‘unlikely’ as WBA order Denis Lebedev mandatory

SPANNER IN THE WORKS?

Eddie Hearn has said the big fight is no longer looking probable for 2018

Tony Bellew’s dream fight against Oleksandr Usyk is unlikely to happen this year, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.

The undisputed Ukrainian cruiserweight champion has been ordered by the WBA to face their ‘champion in recess’ Denis Lebedev next, presenting both camps with a fresh problem.

Tony Bellew was last seen stopping David Haye in their May 5 rematch

Tony Bellew was last seen stopping David Haye in their May 5 rematch

Due to their fragmented titles policy, the WBA currently have four separate champions at cruiserweight, though Usyk is universally recognised as the true king of the division.

As part of the ruling that allowed him to pick up the WBA title in the World Boxing Super Series tournament final, Denis Lebedev (the original champion) was moved to become ‘champion in recess.’

Now however, after 14 months out of the ring, Lebedev is set to return against Hizni Altunkaya on September 7.

After that, the WBA have ordered the pair to meet in a fight which would scrap one of their excess titles.

A negotiations deadline is set for October 3/4.

Lebedev was a long-reigning WBA champion and now wants to regain his title

Lebedev was a long-reigning WBA champion and now wants to regain his title

Meanwhile, Oleksandr Usyk and his team were closing in on a potential meeting with Britain’s Tony Bellew, with the bout targeted for November 10 date and expected to be announced shortly.

However, Eddie Hearn has now told Sky: “The only way that Usyk versus Bellew happens is if all the belts are on the line.

“We will have to see what happens but certainly [the WBA] news means Usyk versus Bellew is unlikely for 2018.”

Usyk is the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO undisputed cruiserweight world champion

Usyk is the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO undisputed cruiserweight world champion

While today’s ruling appears to have thrown a spanner in the works for Usyk v Bellew, the bout could still go ahead regardless.

One of the WBA’s rules allows for fighters to obtain ‘special permits’ to avoid mandatories and take part in fights of special significance.

It is also possible that Denis Lebedev’s team could agree to briefly step aside and allow Usyk to fight Bellew, while then waiting to meet the winner.

Either way, both promoters will undoubtedly be working hard to resolve the issue in order to bring the fight to reality.

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Boxing – talkSPORT

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