By William Hill
Last Updated: 10th December 2019
Anthony Joshua’s famous night in Saudi Arabia last Saturday will live long in the memory of many, as the world witnessed a true fighter return to the top and become two-time world heavyweight champion as he defeated Andy Ruiz Jr.
Following the victory that will go down as one of the defining moments of the British brawler’s career, all eyes are now on the subject of AJ’s next opponent.
Who’s next? We’ve put together a list of the most likely candidates.
Regaining the WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO world heavyweight champion belts means that there are mandatory challenges to contend with in 2020 for Joshua. One of those is the IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.
If Joshua is to hold on to all three belts in his pursuit of the unified crown, Pulev may well be the Briton’s next opponent – he has been the mandatory challenger in the IBF rankings for over two years.
The Bulgarian once signed on to fight Joshua in 2017 but ultimately withdrew through injury, and he’ll be itching for his chance to snatch the belts. With only one loss on his professional record coming against Wladimir Klitschko, Pulev would be no easy test.
As former undisputed cruiserweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk’s step-up to heavyweight instantly gained him the mandatory challenger spot within the WBO world rankings by their rulings.
And the WBO have ordered their mandatory to be adhered to within the next 180 days, which would mean Joshua would need to fight Usyk before June 2020.
There has been talk that Usyk will first fight Dereck Chisora in early 2020, with the Ukrainian in search of one last warm-up fight before challenging for the belts. But if he were to stand his ground as the WBO’s rightful mandatory, it’s likely we could see Usyk lined up as Joshua’s next opponent in what could prove to be the fight of the year.
Arguably the most intriguing fight for heavyweight boxing fans, it’s unlikely we will see Deontay Wilder fight Joshua in the Briton’s next bout.
Wilder has already signed on to fight Tyson Fury in early 2020, and there’s talk that a trilogy fight for later that same year might already have been pre-agreed as well.
Regardless, a fight between Joshua and Wilder would see two of the world’s most explosive fighters go toe-to-toe for the undisputed world championship, providing both come through the next year without defeat, and it’s a fight that will be demanded by the fans.
It could prove to be one of the most commercially lucrative all-British boxing matches in history, but it’s unlikely that Fury will fight Joshua next, given his commitments to Wilder.
Fury has three fights left on his contract with ESPN, but his contract states that he must fight all three in the United States, which provides another obstacle to overcome in getting the fight made.
Regardless, this fight is another that could be pushed through with added fan pressure, and it’s one that could prove career-defining for both fighters.
Andy Ruiz Jr.
Joshua showed that he could box a level above Ruiz Jr. on December 7 and, although the Mexican may be calling for the trilogy fight, it’s likely that a third bout between the two would come much further down the line.
Unlikely to relinquish his belts, Joshua’s two mandatory fights seem the two most probable candidates for his next opponent. But if he were to vacate one or both, a clash with Ruiz Jr. again wouldn’t be out of the question, and it’s likely he’d make more money than in any of his previous 23 fights.