What will happen if Oleksandr Usyk drops from heavyweight to cruiserweight after Tyson Fury rematch

-Credit: (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: AFP via Getty Images)

Less than three weeks after writing himself into the history books of boxing, Oleksandr Usyk has confirmed his intention to move back down to cruiserweight once he has taken care of his rematch with Tyson Fury.

On May 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the 37-year-old became the first fighter in the modern era to capture all four belts in the heavyweight division, with a split decision victory over Fury also making him the first undisputed heavyweight champion in the weight class since Lennox Lewis back in 1999.

After being handed his first professional defeat of his career, the "Gypsy King" Fury has quickly exercised his right to call for a rematch, and he and Usyk are scheduled to do battle in the Middle East again at the end of the year on December 21. Despite requesting special permission to defend the belt, Usyk is expected to be stripped of his IBF title ahead of the rematch, after agreeing to face Fury again instead of taking on the organisation's mandatory challenger.

British heavyweight Daniel Dubois won the interim IBF title with a superb stoppage win over Filip Hrgovic last weekend, and could face Anthony Joshua in huge domestic dust-up in a contest at Wembley for the full world title in September. In an interview with 3 Knockdown Rule podcast, Usyk has hinted that he wants to campaign at cruiserweight again - where he reigned as undisputed champion in 2018. He said : "I think maybe after the rematch, I am going to go down in weight to cruiserweight. I want more (fights at) cruiserweight."

The Ukrainian boxer's promoter Egis Kilmas also echoed those sentiments, adding: "Maybe we go back down to cruiserweight. We spoke about it yesterday, to get undisputed for a second time in the cruiserweight division." So if Usyk was to come through Fury again and then opt to drop back down to the 200 pound division, what will happen to the rest of heavyweight belts?

This is where it can get a little bit complicated. Although champions have often been stripped of their titles for failing to follow the organisations rules, there have been examples in which a boxer has held world titles in two weight classes at the same time. For the “big five” sanctioning bodies (the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO and IBO), a champion can simultaneously hold a world title in one weight class and challenge for another.

If he/she wins, they are then given a period of between 10 and 30 days to choose which title he wishes to defend going forward. One instance when this type of scenario occurred was back in 2003 when unified light-heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr stepped up to defeat John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title.

Jones Jr (right) became WBA champion by outscoring Ruiz (left) in Las Vegas 21 years ago -Credit:Getty Images Sport
Jones Jr (right) became WBA champion by outscoring Ruiz (left) in Las Vegas 21 years ago -Credit:Getty Images Sport

Jones was then given 30 days to make his choice in accordance with their rules, but was then able to successfully petition for an extra 60 days. Eight months later in November 2003, the American star then moved back down to light-heavyweight and retained his titles with a points victory over Antonio Tarver.

Back in November 2010, WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao moved up to claim the WBC super-welterweight title with an unanimous points win against Antonio Margarito. However, the Filipino legend's WBC strap was quickly declared as vacant after he failed to inform them of his intentions, but Pacquiao was simply able to drop back down to welterweight and defend his crown as the WBO champion for the next four and a half years.

Should Usyk hope to regain his former belts at cruiserweight, there are four men in the division who stand in his way in the form of WBA champion Gilberto Ramirez, IBF title holder Jai Opetaia, WBC champion Noel Mikaelian and England's Chris Billam Smith, who makes the second defence of his WBO title against long-time rival Richard Riakporhe on June 15.