A little over five years after his debut, Anthony Joshua is the unified heavyweight champion of the world and the man seemingly on everybody’s lips; routinely attracting tens of thousands of fans to football stadiums – and many more on pay-per-view – to watch him defend his titles. As Joshua becomes an increasingly significant figure in the sporting world, speculation is naturally rife as to who will be his next opponent for his probable April 13th date at Wembley Stadium.
Dillian Whyte: 25-1 (18 KO’s)
Although Joshua ended their first encounter convincingly three years’ ago, Whyte’s success in the second round whilst purportedly out of shape and nursing a shoulder injury – stunning Joshua with a counter left hook – mean that there are sufficient unanswered questions, in the eyes of most, to warrant a rematch. Moreover, Whyte’s sheer popularity among British boxing fans coupled with a recent string of impressive wins unquestionably heightens the intrigue surrounding a potential sequel.
Whatever the case, bitterness of the Joshua-Whyte rivalry has certainly not abated since December 2015 as their relationship continues to fluctuate between tense and outright antagonistic; something which will almost certainly make for a spicy pre-fight ceremony and attract a considerable amount of interest from the viewing audience. Following the pair’s well-publicised post-fight confrontation following Whyte’s violent eleventh round knockout win over Dereck Chisora, it appears highly likely that the Brixton native will be granted a chance to finally exact vengeance on his old nemesis.
Jarrell Miller: 23-0-1 (20 KO’s)
New Yorker Jarrell ‘Big-Baby’ Miller has made a name for himself as one of the most prominent heavyweight contenders, with an active and successful couple of months, catching the eye of promoter Eddie Hearn with his aggressive style and penchant for colourful smack-talk. The former kickboxer – who boasts an undefeated record of 23-0-1 – typically comes into the ring weighing in excess of 20 stone, and inexorably breaks his opponents down with relentless physical pressure in addition to surprisingly explosive combinations to the head and body.
Indeed, the power of his punches is rivalled only by the virulence and quickness of his tongue, something which was made plainly evident last September when he irked usually imperturbable stablemate Anthony Joshua with a few choice ‘English muffin’ jibes at a DAZN media event. Eddie Hearn presumably recognises Miller’s box-office potential, which is why Miller has supposedly been earmarked as the perfect villain for Anthony Joshua’s stateside introduction at Madison Square Garden.
Deontay Wilder: 40-0-1 (39 KO’s)
WBC counterpart Deontay Wilder is currently the only person standing between Anthony Joshua and the undisputed heavyweight crown. Negotiations for a blockbuster showdown in 2018 degenerated into a protracted and ultimately fruitless venture as the two fighters’ respective teams failed to come to terms or even communicate properly – depending on whose side of the story you are inclined to believe.
A heavyweight unification is undoubtedly the most significant fight that that can be made in the division, and arguably the entire sport, but remains hampered – as is so often the case in boxing – by competing interests and clashing egos. Nevertheless, Eddie Hearn has expressed a willingness to give the fight another chance, and some fans live in hope that a Wilder-Joshua superfight will somehow manifest itself in the immediate future. Some are equally sceptical, however, regarding Joshua’s conspicuous enthusiasm to face the dynamite Alabaman puncher, nicknamed the Bronze-Bomber, who fought Tyson Fury to a thrillingly controversial split-draw in December.
Oleksandr Usyk: 16-0 (12 KO’s)
2018 has been undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk’s breakout year, which says an awful lot for someone who previously won an Olympic gold medal, a litany of amateur accolades, and a professional world championship in his tenth fight on away soil. This year, the Ukrainian southpaw secured a triumvirate of successive wins over his foremost cruiserweight rivals – all in their respective backyards – unifying the division and collecting the resplendent Muhammad Ali Trophy in the process.
From a technical standpoint, Usyk is someone who punches with variety, volume and spite in equal measure – something which was clearly exemplified by the devastating fashion with which he dispatched of Tony Bellew in November – and having capitalised on the opportunity to showcase his skills to an international audience with his dominance in the World Boxing Super Series tournament, he is also someone who is generally regarded as one of the best in the world. Now reportedly contemplating a move up, Usyk’s representatives have painstakingly endeavoured to dispel rumours of him facing the heavy-handed Joshua in his heavyweight debut, but the prospect of dethroning Britain’s champion in front of a capacity crowd at Wembley Stadium could prove to be too tantalising to resist.
Tyson Fury: 27-0-1 (19 KO’s)
Although it would probably represent the biggest fight in British boxing history, not to mention a spectacular style clash, it has to be said that the ‘Gypsy-King’ currently appears to be the most unlikely opponent for Joshua out of this shortlist of five. In the current climate, Joshua and Fury’s personal attitudes towards one another are largely characterised by disdain, apathy, and contempt.
Regardless, any rivalry they may share, or may have shared, is definitely superseded by the passionately competitive enmity between promoters Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn, who are themselves both associated with different broadcasting networks in BT and Sky. British boxing fans will ponder the question: are Hearn and Warren’s differences so intractable as to prevent this moneyspinner of an event from ever taking place? Probably not, but you get the impression they will take considerably longer than three months to reconcile. In the meantime, by all accounts, Fury has unfinished business with Deontay Wilder to attend to.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________