After successfully dispatching Otto Wallin in a non-title bout last weekend in Saudi Arabia, Anthony Joshua (AJ), former two-time heavyweight champion ended the year 2023 on a high note and will be aiming for a bigger fight in 2024 after a collapsed potential fight with Deontay Wilder.
Joshua delivered one of his best fights since 2018 after beating Wallin in the fifth round through a technical knockout in a non-title fight in Riyadh.
The fight was meant to be a warm-up fight ahead of the long-awaited showdown with former heavyweight champion Wilder in March 2024, but the 38-year-old American boxer suffered a shock defeat to Joseph Parker on the same night.
The defeat puts into doubt a long-awaited big-money fight against Joshua in 2024.
But the question many doxing fans are asking is who will Anthony Joshua fight next?
Boxing pundits had predicted that Wilder, a 38-year-old American boxer would steal the show in Riyadh, but the 31-year-New Zealand boxer pulled a big surprise and won the bout in a unanimous decision after the three judges scored him 118-111, 118-110 and 120-108.
But Joshua did not close the door on Wilder’s fight as the Nigerian-born British boxer refused to give up on the fight.
“Me and him can still get it on, we can still get it cracking,” he added. “I believe I’m a massive threat. I still think Wilder is a threat, and I still think it does amazing numbers if you get it on. But I’ll leave that down to my management, trainers, and promoters, to make the decision. I’m down to fight anyone, whenever, and whoever.”
But in reality, that fight is now as far away as it has ever been.
During his build-up to fight against Wallin, Joshua admitted his future in boxing would be uncertain if he failed to win the bout, but his performance has re-ignited his boxing career.
Joshua is now desperate to become a three-time world champion with his promoter Eddie Hearn eager to explore that option in the form of the IBF world title, currently in the possession of Oleksandr Usyk.
Joshua will likely fight the winner between Usyk and Tyson Fury on February 17 in Saudi Arabia.
“If it’s the heavyweight championship of the world or fighting an opponent, I will always choose the heavyweight championship, ” Joshua said last weekend in Saudi Arabia.
There are a host of alternative options. Zhilei Zhang, the Chinese heavyweight Joshua beat on his way to Olympic gold in 2012, has been eager to settle that score. After two destructive wins over Joe Joyce, the 40-year-old is among the biggest names in the division and is the mandatory challenger for the WBO title.
Parker, the man who denied Joshua’s plans for early 2024, is another opponent. Joshua beat the New Zealander in 2018, taking his WBO title in Wales.
Francis Ngannou, an MMA fighter, may be the most profitable choice available. In his professional boxing debut in October, the former UFC champion floored Fury in the third round before losing on a controversial split decision.
The Cameroonian, who is now contracted with MMA promoter the Professional Fighters League [PFL], has been in talks for a mixed-rules fight with Wilder, but the events in Saudi Arabia on Saturday suggest a fight with Joshua would be a better choice.