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Carl Froch believes Oleksandr Usyk has to beat Tyson Fury if he wants to be the world’s top heavyweight boxer.

The pair will face off in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 17, 2024, when there will be all four major world championship belts on the line.

Both boxers remain unbeaten in their professional careers, with Fury winning 34 of his 35 fights, while Usyk has been successful in each of his 21 contests, 14 of them by knockout.

And Froch, who was naming his best five heavyweights currently in action, believes the Ukrainian has what it takes to dethrone the Gypsy King.

“I’m going to go Tyson Fury number one,” he told TNT Sports.

“I can predict that Usyk beats Fury, and still have Fury at number one, because Usyk needs to gain that number one spot by beating Fury, which hopefully will happen in February. Then we’ll know.

“But I’ve got Fury at number one and he has to be at number one in my opinion, based on what he’s done. Usyk at number two, because he beat Anthony Joshua.”

The WBC, WBA (Super), IBF, WBO heavyweight straps will be on the line when two go head-to-head next year – plus the IBO and The Ring titles – in a fight being billed ‘Ring of Fire’.

It will mark Fury’s first action since beating Francis Ngannou in October, a contest that the Brit won by split decision against a mixed martial artist who was making his professional bow as a boxer.

Froch added that the 37-year old, who was the reigning UFC heavyweight world champion before his switch from the octagon, may well throw himself back into the world title mix – if he can prove his effort against Fury wasn’t a flash in the pan.

“I can’t put Ngannou in the top five,” he continued. “Just because I’m going to dig my heels in and say he’s only had one fight as a pro.

“If he has a fight with somebody else ranked in the top 10, we’ll know if that was just a fluke, a bad performance by Fury, or a really strong solid performance from Ngannou.”

Usyk, on the other hand, hasn’t fought since a ninth round knock-out of Britain’s Daniel Dubois in August.

That victory followed back-to-back successes against Anthony Joshua, who is now trying to rebuild his career.

The London 2012 Olympic champion has defeated Jermaine Franklin by unanimous decision and Robert Helenius through a seventh round knock-out this year.

Froch believes the former heavyweight world champion, who takes on Otto Wallin on December 23, is at a crossroads in his career – but he’s still among the world’s best.

“For me, it’s a reluctant top five,” he said, “and it’s not an Anthony Joshua hate game. It’s based on previous performances and based on losses.

“He has only lost to the best, in Usyk in his last couple of losses. Before that, he got wiped out against Ruiz. He got hurt. But then boxed his ears off, just kept out of his way, but that wasn’t the Ruiz we expected to see.

“Ruiz, in that rematch, he was a bit of a mess. He was a bit of a fat disgrace. He openly admitted to partying and eating. He didn’t even take his t-shirt off on the scales, but that was exposed on fight night.

“But AJ’s won an Olympic Gold medal so he can obviously box. He went on; he beat Wladimir Klitschko. He climbed off the canvas to beat Klitschko and become world champion.

“What a feat that was. You can’t take this away from him. Then he defended it against everybody, and he took on Usyk when he didn’t need to.

“He could have vacated that WBA belt. He could have said ‘no, I don’t fancy that, it’s not a big fight for me, I’m not really interested.’

“He took that fight against Rob McCracken’s advice. Rob’s a genius. He knows boxing. So, anyway, I’ve got Anthony Joshua and number four because he deserves to be at number four.

“Number three is Deontay Wilder; he had three epic fights against Fury and nearly beat him in the first one.

“And who do you put at number five? I think I’m going to say Zhang. He’s capable. He’s a good fighter.”

TNT Sports presents the premium live sports rights previously carried by BT Sport including the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Conference League, Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Investec Champions Cup, EPCR Challenge Cup, MotoGP, Cricket, UFC, Boxing and WWE. The streaming home for TNT Sports in the UK is discovery+, where fans can enjoy a subscription that includes TNT Sports, Eurosport and entertainment in one destination. You can also watch TNT Sports through BT, EE, Sky, and Virgin Media

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