The Alternatives: If it’s not going to be Deontay Wilder, who can Anthony Joshua fight next?

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

This, a famous Michael Corleone quote from The Godfather Part III, could be associated with any boxing fan whenever they hear talk of a huge heavyweight fight potentially taking place. Because, sadly, in what has so far been a barren year for the division, we still live in hope that at some point the most famous weight class in the sport will get its mojo back.

For months the prospect of Anthony Joshua fighting Deontay Wilder has grown into something that looked more reality than fantasy. Interviews here, there, and everywhere with Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, as well as all-important soundbites from the two main protagonists, were more than enough to have us start thinking we may finally see two mainstays of the heavyweight division fighting one another.

Sure enough, with the Middle East looking like a probable and profitable destination, and everything appearing to be rosy, all we have been waiting for in recent weeks is an official announcement. And yet, just as our excitement arrived rather fittingly with light summer nights, now, with dark nights on the horizon, comes the very real possibility that Joshua vs. Wilder may not in fact materialise until early next year.

Boxing News spoke to Hearn last week and the Matchroom promoter said, “We have agreed our number with Saudi Arabia, but it’s still got to get papered, it’s got to get done properly and there will be a time where you run out of time, and we’ll just fight in December. We’ve got a few weeks to try and make that happen.”

So, if Joshua is not back in the desert for his next fight, where will it take place and, more importantly, who will it be against?

BN looks at five possibilities.

Andy Ruiz, 35-2 (22)

Four years ago, Joshua and Ruiz fought one another twice and for a total of 19 rounds. The craziness of Madison Square Garden, when the seemingly inferior Ruiz ruined both the seemingly invincible Joshua and his American debut, will never be forgotten. That defeat was then avenged by the Brit with method not madness in their Middle East rematch. However, there is typically always a trilogy fight when the score is one apiece, which leaves the door open for Joshua and Ruiz to meet once more. Then again, if it does happen, it likely won’t come cheap.

Andy Ruiz Jnr (Harry How/Getty Images)

Martin Bakole, 19-1 (14)

Having sparred together, Joshua and Bakole are hardly strangers, and there appears to be a mutual respect there as well. Five years ago, Bakole lost in the final round to Michael Hunter but has since then rebuilt, along the way outpointing Tony Yoka over 10 rounds in May 2022. No fight with Joshua can ever be described as a “tough sell” given the star power the Londoner carries and, after entertaining Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius of late, a fight against Bakole could be considered a step up in opposition. If nothing else, Joshua vs. Bakole would provide evidence of where the careers of both are heading.

Source link