Following his unanimous points victory over Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia to take the WBA, IBF and WBO titles back to Britain, Joshua vowed he would not call out potential opponents such as Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury, and simply take it a fight at a time. Here, we examine the state of the heavyweight division in the wake of Joshua’s win, and what we can expect next year:
While the world is desperate to see Joshua face Wilder to unify the heavyweight division, we will have to wait a while yet for such a fight to come to fruition. It is certain the 30-year-old will first have to fulfil a mandatory fight against either the WBO’s No 1 challenger Oleksandr Usyk or the IBF’s Kubrat Pulev. Whoever comes first – and providing Joshua wins – the other will likely follow six months later, pushing a potential Wilder showdown into 2021.
Arguably the most explosive puncher in heavyweight history, Wilder was on course to lose his WBC belt in his last defence against Cuban Luis Ortiz last month as he was behind on all the judges’ scorecards until unleashing a devastating right hand in the seventh round for his 41st career knockout from his 42nd fight. The only blemish on his card is the draw with Fury a year ago and we await official confirmation of the date.
The past year has been an interim one for Fury as we have had to wait for he and Wilder to finalise the details of their second clash. Fury enjoyed a technical knockout of the previously unbeaten Tom Schwarz in June and then had a unanimous points success over Otto Wallin in September. Fury, though, was badly cut in that fight, and it remains to be seen how such significant damage has healed for the ‘Gypsy King’.
Andy Ruiz Jr
What next for a man who was on top of the world for six months? Ruiz Jr admitted that he went into his rematch with Joshua overweight and under-prepared, and there is no doubt he was schooled in the art of boxing by the Briton, so there is no value in a third fight – despite both saying it could happen. Even if he racks up the wins, the Mexican-American may have to wait for another shot.
The former undisputed world cruiserweight champion has stepped up to prove himself among the heavyweights, with Joshua in his sights after only one fight in the division. The Ukrainian southpaw will undoubtedly provide Joshua with a stern test given his craft and movement, but seemingly lacks the power for a knockout win.
Best of the rest
Bulgarian Pulev has been waiting in the wings for some time, with the only defeat of his 29-fight record being a fifth-round knockout from Wladimir Klitschko five years ago in challenging for the h title.
Then there is Dillian Whyte, who returned to action on the Joshua undercard with a points win over Mariusz Wach, putting behind him the alleged failed drug test that has blighted his last six months before being cleared by UK Anti-Doping. He deserves a shot after chalking up 11 wins since his only defeat – to Joshua – four years ago.