Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit is said to have given Oleksandr Usyk his permission to leave the war effort in his homeland to prepare for his rematch with Anthony Joshua, according to reports. The development has emerged less than 24 hours after Usyk’s close friend Vasiliy Lomachenko turned down the chance to face George Kambosos Jr in Australia for the undisputed lightweight world championship.

Lomachenko is keen to climb through the ropes with the Aussie, who now looks set to face Devin Haney this summer, but has decided to prioritise defending his country over a return to the ring.

It’s a stance Usyk could yet follow, despite receiving Ukraine’s blessing to make the first defence of his WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight world titles.

The slick southpaw and former undisputed cruiserweight king totally outclassed Joshua at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September to become a two-weight world champion.

Despite talks over a potential undisputed clash with Tyson Fury in recent months, Usyk’s next bout will be against AJ – it is just a case of when.

ESPN are now reporting that Gutzeit – Ukraine’s Sports Minister – has confirmed Usyk can leave his home country to prepare for the rematch with Joshua.

It means we should now get some clarity on Usyk’s next move, even if he decides to remain in Ukraine.

That would provide Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn with the green light to pursue an interim fight with Luis Ortiz, Otto Wallin and Joe Joyce among the current options under discussion.

Matchroom chief Hearn is expecting Usyk to follow in the footsteps of Lomachenko.

“I felt Usyk would be taking the fight in June, but obviously, with Lomachenko’s announcement last night, it makes you think, can Usyk come out and say, ‘Nice, but I’m fighting (Joshua)’? So we are just saying to him we need to know,” he said.

“If you want to fight, let us know and, if not, we’ll give you time, but we will fight in June. That is what hopefully we can decide this week.

“This week is the deadline really because we want to move forward. AJ is not getting restless, but he wants to fight and wants to be active.”

Hearn and his megastar were ringside with Dereck Chisora and Dana White at UFC London on Saturday night.

Last week, Joshua teased that an announcement over his next fight was imminent but it appears nothing is set in stone as of yet.

“AJ is good and loved the UFC, but you can tell he wants to fight,” Hearn said on Monday following the Joshua Buatsi vs Craig Richards press conference in London.

“He wanted to get in there and fight. He is excited, he wants to be active and that is the one thing that has been missing a lot from his career.

“I think because of his commercial obligations, but also as well as that trying to keep more active with the pandemic, it has really been two fights in two years so he feels he wants to get active again.”