There’s no denying the fact that Anthony Joshua’s career took a bit of a hit after the back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk.
The Ukrainian stripped the man affectionately known as ‘AJ’ of his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles to become a two-weight world champion, with a unanimous decision victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September 2021.
Usyk came out on top again in their much-anticipated rematch, this time winning via split decision when they traded blows for a second time at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in August 2022.
Along with a defeat earlier in his career to Andy Ruiz Jr, when the American infamously stunned Joshua with a seventh-round TKO on his United States debut at the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York, people are starting to question Joshua’s legacy as a true great in the Blue Riband division.
AJ has been rebuilding his résumé since those two defeats, beating Jermaine Franklin by unanimous decision before knocking out Robert Helenius in the seventh round in two quickfire fights at the O2 Arena in London earlier this year.
Those who bet on boxing and follow the sport closely will be well aware that those were merely bouts to rebuild Joshua’s confidence after Usyk had knocked him back. There’s no doubt that Joshua now needs to prove himself once again against elite-level opposition.
That looks to be happening soon, as AJ’s next opponent looks set to be Deontay Wilder. The Bronze Bomber is one of the hardest hitters in the sport and famously knocked down Tyson Fury a number of times across their three fights.
Although Wilder failed to win a bout in that blockbuster trilogy, he did manage to hold the Gypsy King to a draw in their first fight in Los Angeles. The American is the only person to deny Fury a win in his career, which is no mean feat. So, Joshua could have his work cut out.
Any news of when and where that fight will take place is still unclear. However, both parties have stated they want the fight, and there appears to be a good chance that it will finally happen in 2024.
There was even talk that Joshua vs Wilder could feature on the same night as Fury’s mammoth unification bout with Usyk to make a ‘mega-card’. AJ confirmed talks of this when speaking to Sky Sports at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, but the Gypsy King very quickly dismissed it.
“It’s quite embarrassing really when you’ve got a former heavyweight world champion begging for a fight, begging to be on the undercard,” Fury said.
“Is he [Joshua] a child or what? He wants to go on my undercard? Him vs. Wilder? Go and get your own show.”
The obvious next step for Joshua, should he beat Wilder, would be to face Fury in an all-British showdown that would attract the attention of millions all around the world.
However, those who have prayed for that fight for years will be disappointed to find that the Gypsy King has also ruled out facing Joshua in the future.
Fury’s recent opponent Francis Ngannou has claimed that he would like to face AJ, hinting at the possibility of trading blows with the former heavyweight champion at Wembley Stadium, while Zhilei Zhang could also be on the list of options for Joshua.