Anthony Joshua’s next opponent is up in the air with mega-fight against Tyson Fury set to be pushed back to December… so, with Oleksandr Usyk, Dillian Whyte and Andy Ruiz Jr all waiting in the wings, who is most likely to face AJ this summer?
- Anthony Joshua’s mega-bout against Tyson Fury looks set to be delayed this year
- Fury has been ordered to face Deontay Wilder for a third time as soon as possible
- As a result, AJ will now likely fight another heavyweight contender instead
- Oleksandr Usyk heads the queue but Dillian Whyte and Luis Ortiz are options
- A trilogy bout against Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr is also not out of the question either
It looked done and dusted in the calendar. Anthony Joshua really was set to fight Tyson Fury on August 14 in Saudi Arabia, in one of the biggest fights in boxing history for the unified heavyweight championship of the world.
Didn’t last long though, did it? A matter of days after Fury’s excitement at a date and venue being agreed, a ruling from a US judge confirmed that the Gypsy King was obliged to face Deontay Wilder for a third time, with that now likely to occur on July 24 in Las Vegas.
The question now is: what’s next for AJ? There’s one leading contender to fight the 31-year-old, but other fighters have thrown their hat into the mix too and with promoter Eddie Hearn admitting he ‘wouldn’t rule out any scenario’, Sportsmail takes a look at all the potential opponents.
Anthony Joshua’s next opponent is up in the air after his fight against Tyson Fury was delayed
The Gypsy King will face Deontay Wilder for a third time, likely to be in Las Vegas on July 24
The Ukrainian, as Joshua’s mandatory WBO challenger, is the most likely next opponent.
The WBO have ordered the fight, having previously made an exception for the unification bout with Fury,
As a result the unbeaten southpaw – who beat Britain’s Derek Chisora last time out – is the obvious opponent for AJ this summer, though Hearn admits it is no foregone conclusion.
Oleksandr Usyk is Joshua’s most likely opponent as he is the WBO mandatory challenger
The fight should, in theory, not be too hard to organise too – at least compared to the Fury clash.
Hearn has worked with Usyk’s team numerous times before and a fight in London – at either Wembley or the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – would still prove popular in the UK, much like December’s bout against Kubrat Pulev.
Yet for Joshua himself, it comes with a risk. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion has thus far had a very impressive showing in his pro career.
At the same time, he is not that well-known and does not carry much clout – is it worth the risk of losing his WBO belt, and therefore a winter shot at unification with Fury?
The Body Snatcher is back waiting in line for a world title shot, after gaining revenge over Russian Alexander Povetkin in Gibraltar in March.
Of course, Joshua has fought him before, back in 2015 during a thrilling fight at the 02 Arena which ended with AJ knocking out Whyte in the seventh round.
But that didn’t come without a scare for Joshua – indeed the first of his career – in the second round.
Joshua beat Dillian Whyte back in 2015 at the 02 Arena in a thrilling all-British encounter
From Hearn’s point of view, this clash would sell very well. It is a known fiery rivalry between two Brits who have a history of bad blood.
It could sell out Wembley or the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, with pay-per-view numbers likely to spiral in the UK – perhaps less so stateside.
Broadcast-wise, Joshua has one final fight with Sky on his current deal before Hearn’s Matchroom leave for DAZN. For one last bout on Sky, it’d be a huge way to go out.
Yet for Joshua himself, there is little to gain – but plenty to lose. Bragging rights and a payday sure, but he’d be risking his titles against an opponent capable of moments of explosiveness, not unlike experienced by Andy Ruiz Jr during his only pro loss in 2019.
However, AJ will be the heavy favourite and will obviously back himself to beat Whyte again. As a result, don’t be surprised if this one happens to materialise this summer.
The Body Snatcher is desperate for a shot at a world heavyweight title sometime this year
ANDY RUIZ JR
Fury is set to face a trilogy bout with his most recent rival this summer – so, why not do the same AJ?
Andy Ruiz Jr inflicted one of boxing’s most recent shocks when he knocked down Joshua four times in New York in June 2019, with the fight stopped in the seventh round.
Andy Ruiz Jr’s win against Joshua in June 2019 sent shockwaves throughout the world of sport
Of course, Joshua convincingly inflicted revenge on the Mexican in Saudi six months later.
Yet Ruiz is on the comeback trail, having beaten American Chris Arreola earlier this month by unanimous decision – and he wants another crack at Joshua.
Hearn says Ruiz has been in contact about a trilogy bout which is a relatively easy sell given the history between the two.
However, will casual fight fans get up for this dynamic again?
More pressingly for Joshua is again, the risk vs reward factor. Near-enough nothing to gain, everything to lose.
Don’t discount the possibility of fight No 3 between these two further down the line – but it’d be a surprise to see it again this summer.
The Mexican (L) beat Chris Arreola earlier this month and wants another crack at Joshua
Hearn name-checked the Cuban as a potential option this summer, who is well known in the States after two fights with Wilder.
It’s a tricky fight for Joshua – Ortiz is a difficult southpaw who has an abundance of skill, who was winning both fights against Wilder before the Bronze Bomber knocked him out.
Nevertheless, Ortiz is now 42 and is powers are waning. Joshua would be a heavy, heavy favourite.
Luis Ortiz (R) has fought Wilder twice, losing twice, but is a tricky and experienced operator
It could be used as a good measuring stick for any future bout against Wilder though, particularly if Joshua can do the business early doors.
Again though, is the risk worth it – and this time not just for Joshua, but for Hearn and a financial perspective? Ortiz is not a big name in the UK.
Overall, he is the least likely out of the quartet to fight Joshua this summer.
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