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What's next for Anthony Joshua?

It is fair to say, this most recent defeat to Anthony Joshua is the one that would have stung the most, missing out on the opportunity to become a 3-time world champion and avenging his loss to Oleksandr Usyk. His eccentric post-fight behaviour, which has received harsh criticism from the boxing public, would have just served to amplify the sting.

A lot of people are turning their backs on the former champion, who enjoyed a steam train of success on his rise in boxing, producing highlight reel knockouts and winning all but one of the belts on his road to undisputed, all seemingly a distant memory for many at this point. This is the Brit's third defeat in his last five fights, and his stock is now heavily in the mud in most people’s eyes.

What comes next is the main question surrounding the name Anthony Joshua. Something we were all wondering until he was handed a surprise lifeline from a surprising figure. Tyson Fury.

Everything appeared to be in place for a massive British clash between two of the biggest and most renowned boxing stars applying their trade today, for the WBC championship. When this battle was announced to be in the works for December of this year, many fans were licking their lips in anticipation—especially when AJ agreed to all stipulations handed to him by Fury initially. So what went wrong?

Negotiations went sour in traditional boxing fashion, so for the time being this fantasy battle remains just that—a fantasy fight. Another classic ‘what could have been?’ to add to an already overflowing pile of fights never made.

To the dismay of the boxing community, Fury had given Joshua an ultimatum: sign the deal by Monday, or the fight is off, with Hearn has chimed in, stating that there is "no chance" that the contract would be signed by the deadline. And that was all she wrote.

In classic boxing form, the deadline was missed and Fury has reportedly moved on with his focus now being on Charr, so with the fight with Tyson Fury not looking like it will be next, what are Anthony Joshua’s options?

In a recent interview, Eddie Hearn claimed he had already proposed to Deontay Wilder's camp that the two fighters square off after Wilder's scheduled bout with Robert Helenius, most likely in 2023. "I see the Dillian Whyte fight as a must-make fight for Anthony Joshua for the British public, I see Deontay Wilder as a must-make fight, and I also see him fighting Tyson Fury because it's a monumental one for British fight fans, but we'll see how that plays out."

So could AJ's next match be against Dillian Whyte? Hearn is undoubtedly certain that it will happen, and it makes perfect sense. Whyte will likely come up most often when you ask people who they would like to see AJ fight next, other than Fury, a fight unlikely to be happening anytime soon. If this fight happened next, anticipate fireworks before and throughout the fight, with a victory putting AJ well and truly back on the right track. Both men’s careers would be on the line given their recent form in the sport, so the hunger for the win would create for an interesting contest. Whyte recently tried his hand at the WBC, and will certainly have the hunger to get right back in there for another crack at it.

Another possibility is for AJ to go up against Joe Joyce, the first person to knock out the tough and rugged Joe Parker, in a fight in which Fury is backing the opposing fighter to do an number on him. This all-British matchup would undoubtedly captivate the public, but is Joshua willing to take the risk? Given AJ's recent run of success in the boxing world, Joyce is obviously a difficult fight to accept, and a loss would be practically catastrophic to his career at this point and Joe Joyce is no easy fight, by no means. Joyce appears to have a chin made of concrete; he will gladly take punches from any boxer on the earth and dismiss them, making them look like nothing. To defeat this resilient and strong opponent, AJ would need to be at the top of his game; by doing so, he would undoubtedly regain lost respect in the boxing world. If this fight was made, it would be dangerous for the two-time world champion, but with great risk, comes great reward.

The boxing community has wanted to see AJ fight Wilder for the past six years, ever since these two became world champions, this has been the fight the people have wanted to see most. With both fighters coming off two-bout losing streaks and being title-less, this clash may be just what the sport of boxing needs right now. The world would be watching and backing the winner to go on to challenge for a world title afterwards. Just the names alone of these two fighters make this one of the biggest fights that could possibly be made in the sport right now, especially with both in very similar positions right now. Undoubtedly a risky fight for AJ, but if he wants to compete at the highest level once again, he must take fights like this.

My shout: In my opinion, AJ's comeback will be more difficult than Fury's initial comeback all those years ago; he can't use easy fights as warm-ups; he must return to the ring immediately and do so impressively. There is a lot more pressure on his name right now, something he must be prepared for, and he must handle it perfectly.

There are a few fighters I can picture representing his current needs, with full respect to his current position in boxing; Deontay Wilder or even Tyson Fury won't be on my list. These bigger battles should wait until 2023, it isn't in AJ's best interest to make them now. He would acquire a lot of respect by doing so, but doing so would require him to take too big of a risk.

My top choice would be an all-British match against Dillian Whyte to settle a score in a goliath show, perfect for a Wembley Stadium showdown. There is a history there; each man has defeated the other once, and both have expressed a desire for a rematch. Additionally, both of them are coming off losses, which puts everything on the line for a fierce clash. A win for either fighter sets up a lot of opportunities, it’s almost a given that this fight should be made.

Daniel Dubois, another intriguing bout. Since losing to Joyce, Triple D has been making his own return, and he is a well-known figure in the sport and in his homeland. There are better bouts for AJ to take, and I don't think Dubois would consider taking this one at this point in his career, but I do think it would be a step in the right direction and a good name to add to his record. It's probably too early for Dubois, but sooner or later, I’m sure this fight will be made.

Otto Wallin, to finish. Since he lost his unbeaten record to Tyson Fury, a fight he easily might have won with the intervention of the doctor or referee due to Fury's cuts, the Swede's name has gained a lot of notoriety. Wallin has since defeated Brezeale and Fury is still Wallin's one and only defeat. Not the most enticing fight to be made, but a victory over a reputable opponent would undoubtedly be the catalyst for a comeback. At this stage of his professional career, there are unquestionably worse fights to be had.

Honourable mentions: Micheal Hunter, Martin Bakole, Filipe Hrgovic & Murat Gassiev.


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