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Usyk-Joshua II could take place in April and Fury-Whyte bids likely to be postponed, says Eddie Hearn

Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk
Ian Walton/Matchroom Boxing
Joshua set to reveal new training team as he prepares for Usyk return in the UK

ANTHONY JOSHUA is set to face Oleksandr Usyk in his ‘make-or-break’ rematch at an outdoor stadium in the UK this April.

Joshua was beaten convincingly on points by the Ukrainian southpaw at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September but his promoter Eddie Hearn says he has been preparing for the return almost ever since.

Now the Matchroom boss has revealed that April is the month in which they are hoping to stage the fight and he insists the UK, namely Wembley or a return to Tottenham, still remain the frontrunners to host.

“We’re in January,” Hearn said. “Before you know it, it’s going to be February and these fights take a lot of organising.

“For us the preferred date and venue for that fight will be the UK, in which case we would have to do the fight outside, so we’re not really interested in doing that fight in March.

“We have the ability to stage the fight where we want but at the same time it has to generate enough money to know that we’ve done our jobs. Kyiv is not the place to generate money.

“I think April is realistic. AJ has been training relatively solidly since the fight. Realistically if you start your training camp in February, even April becomes quite tight but that is the preferred date for the fight and I think that’s realistic.

“We’ve had two or three offers from different countries to stage Joshua v Usyk but for me after the [commercial] success of the Spurs fight, other than the result, I would love to do that fight back in the UK, possibly at Spurs again or at Wembley, because I feel like it’s a must-win for AJ.

“If we had the opportunity to stage the fight in the UK we should do it, and if he can win that fight on that soil it would be pretty special.”

There were suggestions that Joshua could step aside to allow Usyk to face Tyson Fury in a fight for all the heavyweight belts and ‘AJ’ has himself admitted that he may be open to a deal.

But Hearn says that ultimately no real offer was proposed so the only real option was to press ahead with the contracted rematch.

“I was a bit scared to have the conversation with him about stepping aside,” Hearn said of Joshua. “When I first mentioned it he looked like he was going to kill me.

“Then I went back there again and he said: ‘listen, if you feel there’s something you should propose to me, but I’m telling you I don’t want to step aside, it would have to be something you feel was too big an opportunity to turn down.’ And we never really got to that stage.

“We got to the stage where the mechanics of the procedure didn’t make sense. I never formally went to him and sat down and said this is how it’s going to work. Once you step aside it’s not about the money. Of course that comes into it, but it’s more about the plan.

“You’re getting to a point where you’re running out of time to put on a fight of that magnitude, and make sure contractually all the other people are satisfied, and they get what they want. In the end time ran out and we just said: ‘let’s do what we’ve got to do’.”

Joshua is currently on holiday in Dubai but has been posting clips of himself training regularly on social media. Following his defeat to Usyk, Joshua intimated that he would be working with a new coach for the rematch and he has since visited the likes of Eddy Reynoso and Ronnie Shields in America.

It is not yet clear whether Robert McCracken, who steered Joshua to Olympic gold as an amateur and belts galore as a professional, will remain part of the team. Joshua’s decision, however, has been made and an announcement is supposedly close.

“He’s in Dubai on holiday really but he’s training all the time,” Hearn said. “A lot of work has gone in over the last three or four weeks to make sure that process is being put in place.

“We’re not in a position now of saying we don’t know what we’re going to do. We know really where we’re heading from a training perspective, and the set-up for the next fight. It’s not like we’re just floating around not really knowing what we’re doing and AJ has been very meticulous in an approach to setting up that new team.

“These conversations have been with Rob and AJ. AJ made it clear when he said he will be working with a new trainer, will that be in conjunction with Rob? I think that’s to be announced in the coming weeks. With AJ he doesn’t stop thinking, he’s been on it non-stop and he’s been quite obsessed with the process.

“It is a huge risk to have a new trainer for a fight of this magnitude but if you feel like you need a change and you can’t go on in a specific way anymore, the alternative is much more risky.”

Before that, a purse bid has been called to determine the plan for the other big fight at heavyweight, between Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte.

That bid is expected to take place on Tuesday (January 11) but Hearn is expecting a delay due to ongoing legal proceeding between Whyte and the WBC, who announced that the challenger would only be due 20 per cent of any split against the champion Fury.

Tyson Fury
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“I would expect that purse bid to be delayed in all honesty,” Hearn said. “With the legal case ensuing at the moment I don’t see how it can go ahead. If it does, I will bid. We have a value for the fight.

“We’re not happy at all with the ruling about the 80-20 split, there will be a process that we have to go through now to object to that. That’s happening at the moment.

“I guess the danger is that Tyson Fury will box in March and it won’t be Dillian Whyte because that court case is ongoing.

“What that is trying to do is put pressure on Dillian Whyte to take a poor deal. He feels very strongly about this position in all of this.

“At the moment, the offers that have come in for Dillian Whyte are not acceptable but the number that we will bid at the purse bid probably is acceptable to Dillian Whyte.

“So he’s in no rush to take a deal that he feels is not fair. In the meantime we expect this split to be increased.”

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