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Anthony Joshua: Deontay Wilder and Dillian Whyte amongst potential next opponents for Brit

The road to heavyweight redemption will be a long and hard one for Anthony Joshua as he attempts to process a second straight defeat at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia. 

After coming unstuck against Usyk 11 months ago, Joshua was hellbent on avenging his previous loss and reclaiming the WBA (super), WBO and IBF titles to set up an all-British blockbuster against WBC champion Tyson Fury.

Though despite a more inspired effort from AJ this time around, it was the Ukrainian who prevailed once again in their rematch on Saturday night after taking control of the championship rounds and earning a split-decision victory.

The road to heavyweight redemption will likely be a long and hard one for Anthony Joshua

The road to heavyweight redemption will likely be a long and hard one for Anthony Joshua

Joshua was beaten on points by Oleksandr Usyk in their Saudi Arabia rematch last weekend

Joshua was beaten on points by Oleksandr Usyk in their Saudi Arabia rematch last weekend

Joshua found himself on the wrong end of a razor-tight verdict in Jeddah, sparking a meltdown from the crestfallen ex-champion which included a bizarre post-fight tirade and an unsavoury launch of Usyk’s heavyweight belts.

Regardless, promoter Eddie Hearn insists his fighter has no plans to retire from boxing and may even return in late December – so who could he fight next?

Sportsmail has taken a closer look at five potential opponents for AJ and assessed the likelihood of a bout materialising later this year.

But Eddie Hearn claims the 32-year-old will not retire and could even fight again in December

But Eddie Hearn claims the 32-year-old will not retire and could even fight again in December

Deontay Wilder

Like Joshua, Wilder has been forced to plot his own route back to the top after two straight defeats – both of which came against Tyson Fury.

The American took serious punishment in those memorable battles, meaning he was left to reevaluate his future in the sport at the age of 36.

Yet despite calls for him to retire, Wilder has decided against throwing the towel in and will instead fight on, with a comeback fight against Robert Helenius pencilled in for October 15.

Should he come through that test as expected, talk will inevitably turn to a potential meeting with Joshua after years of demand.

Like AJ, Deontay Wilder is seeking a route back to the top after two crushing defeats

Like AJ, Deontay Wilder is seeking a route back to the top after two crushing defeats

The American was knocked out in brutal fashion by Tyson Fury back in October of last year

The American was knocked out in brutal fashion by Tyson Fury back in October of last year

Deontay Wilder has claimed 41 knockouts in his 45 professional contests

Robert Helenius heads into his bout with Wilder on the back of two wins over Adam Kownacki

Wilder is finally due to return in a comeback fight against Robert Helenius on October 15

The pair looked set to collide when they previously reigned supreme in the division, only for Hearn and Wilder’s team to hit a stumbling block in negotiations over a proposed unification bout.

This time around, however, a showdown between the two deflated heavyweights would be a simpler one to make given their respective plights.

With Fury out of the equation, it is the most lucrative option out there for both men as well as a huge opportunity to propel themselves back towards the title picture.

A December date may be difficult for Wilder to fulfil given he only returns to the ring in October, but a mega-fight with Joshua could be a more realistic target for early 2023.

Though with that being said, on the back of two morale-crushing defeats against Usyk, throwing AJ straight in with the division’s biggest puncher could perhaps be too great of a risk for a fighter in need of a rebuild.

Likelihood: 5/10

A showdown with the division's biggest puncher may too great of a risk for Joshua right now

A showdown with the division’s biggest puncher may too great of a risk for Joshua right now

Dillian Whyte

Another heavyweight reeling from defeat on the grandest of stages is Whyte, who was also knocked out by Fury in front of over 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium back in April.

The Brixton fighter failed to make the most of his long-awaited title opportunity having spent years hunting down champion after champion, with Fury barely breaking sweat before landing the decisive blow in round six.

Whyte’s stock has plummeted on the back of that loss, meaning he is in need of a major scalp to work his way back into world-level contention.

A rematch with Joshua would be the perfect way for him to claim one, as well as avenge his previous 2015 defeat against the former Olympic champion.

Thus, on AJ’s part a second encounter with Whyte would surely be enticing for a number of reasons.

Dillian Whyte is another heavyweight reeling from defeat on the grandest of stages

Dillian Whyte is another heavyweight reeling from defeat on the grandest of stages

Whyte was knocked out by Fury in front of over 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in April

Whyte was knocked out by Fury in front of over 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in April

Firstly, his bitter rival looked well out of sorts in his clash with Fury, struggling to get remotely close to the Gypsy King before shipping a crisp uppercut which wiped him out at the halfway stage.

Joshua also knows full well he has the beating of Whyte from their first meeting, which he ended with a devastating uppercut of his own at the O2 Arena.

And lastly, with no love lost between the old adversaries it is a fight that would generate seismic interest on these shores. Fury and Wilder aside, Whyte is likely to be his most commercially appealing option.

Nevertheless, AJ may be forced to wait for that rematch to materialise amid reports claiming Whyte is in talks over a potential crossroads fight against young contender Daniel Dubois.

Should Whyte lock horns with the 24-year-old later this year, he would have to turn his attention elsewhere in December or early 2023. If not, it may be the perfect next move for both parties.

Likelihood: 7/10 

A rematch between Joshua and the Brixton man could be an enticing option for both parties

A rematch between Joshua and the Brixton man could be an enticing option for both parties

But Whyte is reportedly in talks over a potential crossroads clash with Daniel Dubois

But Whyte is reportedly in talks over a potential crossroads clash with Daniel Dubois

Andy Ruiz Jr

The Mexican-American has been desperate for another crack at Joshua ever since his disappointing showing in their 2019 Saudi Arabia rematch.

After sending shockwaves rippling through the sport when he delivered the Brit’s maiden defeat in New York that summer, Ruiz was left to rue piling on the pounds ahead of their return bout the following December.

A new and improved Joshua cruised to a points victory in Diriyah to level the score at one apiece, albeit in an uneventful contest which rendered a trilogy unattractive.

AJ instead went on to defend against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev before pursuing a doomed undisputed fight with Fury, all the while Ruiz struggled with mental health issues away from boxing before eventually returning in May of last year.

Andy Ruiz Jr is another potential option for Joshua three years after their last encounter

Andy Ruiz Jr is another potential option for Joshua three years after their last encounter

Ruiz delivered his first defeat in one of the most sensational heavyweight upsets of all time

Ruiz delivered his first defeat in one of the most sensational heavyweight upsets of all time

But he was no match for a new and improved AJ when they met again the following December

But he was no match for a new and improved AJ when they met again the following December

He is now poised to take on former world-title challenger Luis Ortiz in September, and if he emerges victorious a third fight with Joshua could become an intriguing option.

For the latter, Ruiz would be seen as a more than winnable contest after his shut-out victory when they last met. The trilogy would also be an easy one to sell with the score between them currently locked at 1-1. 

And on Ruiz’s part, another battle with Joshua would present another mouthwatering payday along with the chance to reestablish himself as a top dog in the division.

Should he get the better of Ortiz next month, the former unified champion could be a logical first step on AJ’s redemption mission.

Likelihood: 6/10 

A trilogy between Joshua and Ruiz could make sense if the latter gets past Luis Ortiz next

A trilogy between Joshua and Ruiz could make sense if the latter gets past Luis Ortiz next

Joe Joyce 

Following his stoppage win over Dubois in November 2020, Joyce was lined up for a shot at the winner of Joshua and Usyk’s opening bout as the WBO’s mandatory challenger.

Of course, Usyk’s victory in north London triggered a rematch with AJ and Joyce was kept waiting for his tilt at glory. Now he must sit tight for a little while longer as his former amateur opponent collides with Fury to crown a new heavyweight king.

In the meantime, a domestic clash between Joyce and another of his old amateur foes in Joshua could be an interesting proposition after the pair became embroiled in a heated exchange on Twitter earlier this year.

AJ ignited the feud with his fellow Brit by reacting to a fan who doubted whether he would be prepared to face him and saying: ‘Lol ok … I’ve shared this ring with most people you see in the heavyweight division today! I boxed Otto wallin twice as youngsters & I boxed joe and stopped him in 1 round. I’d do the same thing today! Ain’t nothing changed.’

There is no love lost between Joshua and Joe Joyce, who recently exchanged insults online

There is no love lost between Joshua and Joe Joyce, who recently exchanged insults online

Joyce later responded by writing: ‘And @anthonyjoshua you having a meltdown, where’s all your belts? All those sponsorships and endorsements helping? You’re a glass cannon, quit the act, you were given everything. #easymode’

Joshua then put: ‘It took you 5 days to think of this…’

Given his confidence that Joyce would also be no match for him in the pro ranks, Joshua could be tempted to reassert his status as one of the best in the division by taking out a highly-rated mandatory challenger on the cusp of a title shot.

From Joyce’s standpoint, there would be little reason to risk the promising position he has slowly built towards in recent years, with defeat likely to put his world championship aspirations on hold for even longer.

However, if Fury and Usyk become entangled in one or even two rematch clauses, turning down a money-spinning battle with Joshua would make more sense.

Likelihood: 5/10 

Joyce is mandatory for the WBO title, but his shot may not be on the cards anytime soon

Joyce is mandatory for the WBO title, but his shot may not be on the cards anytime soon

Jarrell Miller 

Joshua was poised to settle his rivalry with Miller at Madison Square Garden in 2019 before the outspoken American failed multiple drug tests and was replaced in the end by Ruiz, who produced a monumental upset to become champion.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Miller, who cost himself a mega-payday and what could have been the perfect chance to dethrone AJ in the Big Apple.

After failing another drug test prior to a clash with Jerry Forrest one year later, Big Baby returned with a win over Ariel Esteban Bracamonte back in June after serving a second suspension, meaning he could controversially move back into the heavyweight picture.

While Hearn is unlikely to do business with him again following his drug shame in 2019, Miller’s promoter Dmitriy Salita believes a grudge match against AJ still makes sense on the back of his defeat against Usyk.

Jarrell Miller's promoter has thrown his name in the hat to be Joshua's next opponent

Jarrell Miller’s promoter has thrown his name in the hat to be Joshua’s next opponent

Miller was due to meet AJ at Madison Square Garden in 2019 before failing multiple drug tests

Miller was due to meet AJ at Madison Square Garden in 2019 before failing multiple drug tests

‘If Anthony Joshua loses, he said he wants to fight in December whatever happens,’ Salita told i prior to Saturday’s contest.

‘If he wins he’s going to fight Tyson Fury, that’s a huge fight as a boxing fan that has to happen. But if he doesn’t win, he has some unfinished business with Jarrell Miller.’

Targeting Miller could be a wise move for Joshua given he has enjoyed one 10-round bout in the past four years. But offering the Brooklyn man a lucrative payday after his previous scandal would not be the greatest of PR moves, nor would it be a sufficient test for the ex-champion.

Likelihood: 2/10 




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