It’s now been a month since British heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua sent Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko crashing to the canvas in round 11. The former Olympic champion took some well-earned time off after his historic win in front of 90,000 people at Wembley; but he is now back in training which indicates his next fight may not be too far on the horizon.
Everyone wants to fight him right now, simply because of the crowds he attracts and therefore the pay day for anyone brave enough to step into a ring with the 6ft 6 people’s champion. However, for me there are only five viable options for the next fight:
1 – Joseph Parker
The New Zealander is one of three incumbent unbeaten ‘world’ champions, currently holding the WBO belt. His record of 23-0 is impressive and he has a good fan base in his home country and across the world. It’s widely known that he is targeting a fight in the UK next and he has previously stated that Joshua is “the man to beat”. However, Parker’s reputation in the UK isn’t huge just now and, although it’s a fight that will happen in the future, it’s probably too early for the kiwi.
Likelihood rating – 3/10
2 – Luis Ortiz
The Cuban is a strange one. He has an exemplary record of 27-0-0 but has spent time on the sidelines after a drugs ban. While he is the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s new WBA title, he has already stepped aside once to allow Joshua v Klitschko to happen. While he won’t do that again (he’s even said he’ll sue Joshua should the fight not take place), I would be surprised if promoter Eddie Hearn took this option mainly for the reason that there are bigger fish to fry. This will result in Joshua automatically losing this belt to Ortiz but as they say, it’s a marathon not a sprint.
Likelihood rating – 4/10
3 – Deontay Wilder
‘The Bronze Bomber’ has long had AJ in his sights. He currently holds the WBC belt and an incredible record of 38-0-0. Joshua has always said he wants to fight in America one day, and his reputation there has been catapulted since last year when he signed a deal with Showtime, who have shown all his subsequent fights live. Wilder has similar appeal in the UK and a fight anywhere – Wembley or Vegas, O2 or Madison Square – would be universally welcomed.
Likelihood rating – 6/10
4 – Kubrat Pulev
The Bulgarian is only on Joshua’s radar because he is mandatory challenger to the first belt that Joshua won, the IBF. His record is good at 26-0-1, although only 13 have been via KO or TKO so he does leave a lot to be desired. The ‘Cobra’ is a worthy opponent, unlike Charles Martin who Joshua beat to originally win the belt on the line. Although the unbeaten 27-year-old has stated he wants to become the richest boxer in history, he also wants to unify the division and will not want to vacate this belt.
Likelihood rating – 8/10
5 – Wladimir Klitschko
As with a majority of fights that have a lot on the line, there is always a rematch clause written into the contract that the loser can activate should they so wish. There’s nothing Joshua could do but take the fight or lose the belts. While I sincerely hope this fight does not go ahead, there is a very good chance it will. For me, Klitschko finished an amazing career with a brilliant show of skill and defiance before falling at the last hurdle against Joshua, and at 41 years of age should finally give his body a rest. One only needs to look at the great Muhammad Ali to show what can happen if you box too many rounds. However, he’s a born winner and will want to go out how he’s spent a majority of his career – on top.
Likelihood rating – 9/10
Worthy mentions go to Brits Tony Bellew, David Haye and Tyson Fury. None fit the bill just now, but could be huge fights in the future. The proverbial ball really is in Joshua’s… well Eddie Hearn’s court, and while I hope he opts for Pulev I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joshua – Klitschko 2.