It looked done and dusted in the calendar. Anthony Joshua was really set to fight Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia on August 14, in one of the biggest fights in boxing history for the world’s unified heavyweight championship.
But didn’t it take long? A few days after Fury’s excitement agreed on a date and location, a U.S. judge’s ruling confirmed that the Gypsy King was required to confront Deontay Wilder for the third time, and that will now likely take place on July 24 in Las Vegas.
The question now is: what is the future for AJ? There is one main contender to fight the 31-year-old, but other fighters have also thrown their hats into the mix and with promoter Eddie Hearn admitting he would ‘not rule out any scenario’, Sportsmail looks at all potential opponents.
Anthony Joshua’s next opponent is in the air after his fight against Tyson Fury was postponed
The Gypsy King will take on Deontay Wilder for the third time, likely on July 24 in Las Vegas
The Ukrainian, as Joshua’s mandatory WBO challenger, is the most likely next opponent.
The WBO has ordered the fight, having previously made an exception for the unification with Fury,
As a result, the undefeated left-hander – who defeated Briton Derek Chisora last time – is the obvious opponent for AJ this summer, although Hearn admits it’s not a done deal.
Oleksandr Usyk is Joshua’s most likely opponent as he is the mandatory WBO challenger
The battle shouldn’t be too difficult to organize, in theory, either – at least compared to the Fury clash.
Hearn has worked with Usyk’s team several times and a fight in London – at Wembley or the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – would still prove popular in the UK, as was the December fight against Kubrat Pulev.
But for Joshua himself, it carries a risk. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion has achieved a very impressive performance in his professional career so far.
At the same time, he’s not that well known and doesn’t have much of an influence – is it worth the risk of losing his WBO belt, and therefore a wintery chance of reuniting with Fury?
The Body Snatcher is waiting in line for a world title again after taking revenge on Russian Alexander Povetkin in Gibraltar in March.
Of course, Joshua has fought him before, in 2015 in a tense fight in the 02 Arena, which ended when AJ eliminated Whyte in the seventh round.
But that didn’t come without shock for Joshua – indeed the first of his career – in the second round.
Joshua defeated Dillian Whyte at the 02 Arena in 2015 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 Britons 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 rise in the UK – perhaps less so in the United States.
As for broadcast, Joshua has one last fight with Sky over his current deal before Hearn’s Matchroom leaves for DAZN. For one last fight on Sky, it would be a great way to go out.
Yet there is little to gain for Joshua himself, but much to lose. Bragging rights and payday for sure, but he would risk his titles against an opponent capable of explosive moments like Andy Ruiz Jr. during his only pro loss in 2019.
However, AJ will be the big favorite and will clearly support himself to beat Whyte again. So don’t be surprised if it happens to become reality this summer.
The Body Snatcher is desperate for a chance at a world heavyweight title sometime this year
ANDY RUIZ JR
Fury faces a trilogy battle with his most recent rival this summer – so why not do the same AJ?
Andy Ruiz Jr caused one of boxing’s most recent shocks when he shot Joshua down four times in New York City in June 2019, ending the fight in the seventh round.
Andy Ruiz Jr.’s victory Joshua in June 2019 caused shock waves in the sports world
Of course, six months later, Joshua took convincing revenge on the Mexican in Saudi Arabia.
Still, Ruiz is on the comeback trail, having unanimously beat American Chris Arreola earlier this month – and he wants another crack at Joshua.
Hearn says Ruiz has been in touch about a trilogy fight that is relatively easy to sell given the history between the two.
However, will casual fight fans rise again for this dynamic?
Even more important to Joshua is the risk versus reward factor. Almost enough nothing to gain, everything to lose.
Don’t discount the possibility of fight # 3 between these two further down the line – but it would 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 checked the Cuban this summer as a possible option, which is well known in the United States after two fights with Wilder.
It’s a tough fight for Joshua – Ortiz is a tough left-handed with an abundance of skill, winning both fights against Wilder before the Bronze Bomber knocked him out.
Nonetheless, Ortiz is now 42 and his powers are waning. Joshua would be a tough, tough favorite.
Luis Ortiz (R) has fought Wilder twice and lost twice, but is a tough and skilled operator
However, it could be used as a good benchmark for any future fight against Wilder, especially if Joshua can get things done early on.
But again, 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’s the least likely of the quartet to fight Joshua this summer.