Even before making his heavyweight debut, Oleksandr Usyk is already the WBO's top contender for the world title.
In a lengthy letter written by the WBO, the governing body announced that Usyk is now the mandatory challenger to Andy Ruiz Jr.'s heavyweight title, potentially giving the former undisputed cruiserweight champion an opportunity to become a two-weight champion.
The letter also details initial blow back from the camp of Dillian Whyte, who is currently ranked No. 1 by the WBO at heavyweight. Whyte's camp argues that the WBO should hold off on a decision until late July after Whyte's fight against Oscar Rivas, currently ranked No. 4 by the WBO. The two are set to fight in the UK in the main event of a Matchroom Boxing card on July 20.
However, the WBO believes that Usyk has earned the right to be called the mandatory challenger as a result of being considered the "Super Champion" at cruiserweight. Earning that designation requires a WBO world champion fulfill a list of criteria, most importantly having made at least 10 successful title defenses. Usyk had only made six title defenses of the WBO cruiserweight title, but due to the high level of competition that he faced throughout his title reign, the WBO can still name him "Super Champion." As the "Super Champion," Usyk is eligible to vacate his title and automatically become the mandatory challenger for the WBO world title in the next weight up or down.
"Mr. Usyk has substantially met the criteria set forth in our WBO Super Champion Status provision and curretly status ready, willing and able to engage in his first professional bout the Mandatory Championship Contest if designated by this Committee... The WBO World Championship Committee hereby designates WBO Super Champion Mr. Oleksandr as the Mandatory Challenger of the WBO Heavyweight Division in accordance with the privileges and rights afforded pursuant to his WBO Super Champion status recognition," the letter details.
As a cruiserweight, Usyk became the first-ever fighter to have held the undisputed WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF and Ring Magazine titles after winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament in 2018. Usyk retained his undisputed titles last November when he knocked out former champion Tony Bellew, sending him into retirement.
Since then, Usyk signed with Matchroom Boxing and announced he would campaign at heavyweight, vacating his 200-pound titles one by one. Usyk, a former Olympic medalist, was supposed to make his heavyweight debut in May against Carlos Takam, but Usyk suffered an injury during training camp and the fight was scrapped.
While Usyk awaits his opportunity at the WBO heavyweight title, Ruiz is likely headed for a rematch against former champion Anthony Joshua later this year. Ruiz scored a major upset win over Joshua on June 1 at Madison Square Garden to become the new unified WBA "Super," WBO and IBF heavyweight champion.