10 June 2017
When a flurry of bad-intentioned punches from Anthony Joshua forced the referee to end the fight in round 11 of a thrilling contest against Wladimir Klitschko, the world was quick to acclaim Joshua as the new savior of the sport of boxing. Joshua is a clean-living knock-out specialist, young enough to go another ten years in the toughest game if his luck and his ambition lasts that long. No sooner had the last patrons made their merry way out of Wembley Stadium and into the chill London air, than pundits were trying to figure out who should be next in line to face the new IBO, IBF and WBA champion in the ring.
Here then, are the list of contenders:
Wladimir Klitschko (again)
For: Why not? It was the best heavyweight fight in the last couple of decades, and the pay per view numbers were great. There’s no reason to believe that the interest in a re-match wouldn’t be just as good, especially now that AJ has made his name on the global stage.
Against: Wladimir is 41 now, which is a pretty advanced age for a boxer. He had gotten into the shape of his life for the last fight, and there is a sense that if he was ever going to beat Joshua then that was his chance.
For: The big Bulgarian has worked his way into the position of mandatory challenger for the IBF title courtesy of a couple of scrappy winning performances against routine opponents. He now finds himself in the fortuitous position of being in position to demand either a lucrative fight or the IBF title from Joshua.
Against: Pulev is hoping for the type of pay-day he won’t see again unless he wins the lottery by landing a big money fight with Joshua. Given that Pulev was knocked out by Klitschko when they met in 2014 and has fought no world-class opponents since then, it is doubtful that he could put up much of a fight versus AJ.
For: The former belt holder is still the lineal champion, and a fight between the two British bruisers would do enormous business in the UK. There are already indications that a fight may happen next April in London, but there a lot of bridges to cross before then.
Against: Fury is a tricky customer who Joshua’s management team may prefer him to avoid for now. Also, Tyson is not the biggest name Stateside which could hurt PPV on that side of the pond, although he has certainly demonstrated some unique ways of hyping a contest in the past.
For: One fight guaranteed to go over big in America would be Joshua versus the unbeaten Deontay Wilder. Wilder holds the WBC title, which would make for a big money unification bout with Joshua and all the interest that such a fight would draw.
Against: This looks like one of the most attractive fights for a lot of reasons, although there is no rush to get these two together just yet. It may be that this rivalry will be left on the back-burner to develop some momentum as both fighters are still in the early stages of their respective careers.
For: New Zealander Parker holds the WBO version of the heavyweight title, which gives him bragging rights and allows for another potential unification fight. Joshua’s team will also feel that this is an eminently winnable match for him.
Against: Parker is little known outside of his own country, and so is likely to be one of the less financially rewarding opponents for Joshua. That being said, at this stage Joshua could probably sell 90,000 tickets to watch him take on a hat-stand in the ring.
For: Ortiz is the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s WBA belt, putting him in a similar situation to Kubrat Pulev. The major difference is that Ortiz is a very dangerous customer with a brutal punch and a wealth of experience.
Against: Ortiz is a very dangerous customer with a brutal punch and a wealth of experience. Add to that the fact that he does not do big box-office, and it’s no surprise that Ortiz is the most avoided heavyweight boxer in the game today.
Based on his destructive performance against Doctor Steelhammer, it is hard to imagine that Joshua will fear any of the above-named challengers. We will just have to wait and see who will be next into the firing line.