By Declan Taylor
FRANK WARREN has confirmed that Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will fight for all four belts despite the new delay on their heavyweight superfight.
After trying and failing to make the fight multiple times over the past 12 months, the pair seemed set to clash on December 23 in Saudi Arabia after signing a deal.
However, following Fury’s unexpectedly testing night against Francis Ngannou last month, Warren ruled out the chances of the Gypsy King’s participation in a fight of such magnitude before the year is out.
But with an IBF mandatory looming, it had been suggested that the delay may force that sanctioning body to strip Usyk of the title and allow Filip Hrgovic to fight for the vacant belt, ruining the Saudi plans of a true ‘undisputed’ fight.
Now Warren has confirmed that he has assurances that the IBF will not strip Usyk of that title as long as he and Fury can fight to unify the division before March.
That month is a key for Saudi too, as it marks the end of Riyadh Season, which was officially opened by Fury’s split decision victory over Ngannou at the Kingdom Arena.
Now Fury and Usyk are likely to bring the curtain down on the festival, with the fight likely to land in late February before the IBF deadline.
Warren said: “The Riyadh Season ends on March 2. It will go on by then, 100 per cent. It will be undisputed, all four belts. The IBF have given consent for that to happen.”
Usyk, who was ringside in Saudi and later posed for a face-off with Fury, had said on Sunday that the Englishman must fight on December 23 as per their signed contract.
Warren said: “Believe you me, I had the late meetings. It’s all done. It didn’t have to be December 23, that was the date we were hoping for.
“There’s absolutely not a problem. The fight is on, everything is agreed. It is ready to be announced. It will be announced very soon. The fight will be in the same arena.”
The pair have also agreed a rematch, which, given the new timeline, will likely open Riyadh Season 2024. However, that fight will not be for all four belts due to the IBF situation so it was imperative for Warren that Fury went into the first Usyk fight fully fit.
He said: “After Ngannou, It’s not just the bruising, he’s had a 12-week camp, he’s had a new baby, he’s had a tough fight, it’s a tough fight for him so now he needs a couple of weeks off and then he would only have six weeks to train for the undisputed fight? If it ended earlier then 23rd would have been a viable date. He said to me after he would fight and I said ‘no you’re not’. I told him it wouldn’t go away, it’s signed and done.
“I think he will beat Usyk and he knows Usyk. He knows what he’s got in front of him, Usyk is not going to switch his style. If Usyk watches that fight and sees a chink in his armour, who knows. Usyk is a competitor, he wants to fight. They both do. It will be a good fight.”