After stopping Otto Wallin, Joshua is back in the running for a world title. The Brit headlined the ‘Day of Reckoning’ event, hoping to face Deontay Wilder next. A deal was in place for Joshua vs Wilder, with the first fight set for March 9, 2024. Wilder’s loss to Joseph Parker prevented that from happening.
Joshua vs Filip Hrgovic is the most likely next fight. They are both with Matchroom and could fight for the vacant IBF title. Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk fight for undisputed, after which the winner must face Hrgovic, who is the mandatory. A rematch clause between Fury-Usyk will likely prevent that, leaving Joshua as the leading name for the vacant belt.
If the Hrgovic fight fails, Zhilei Zhang and Francis Ngannou have been mentioned. Zhang is a huge risk. The southpaw is in impressive form, having stopped Joe Joyce consecutively. He is the WBO interim champion, but since the IBF mandatory will be called first, Hrgovic is the better fight for AJ. Ngannou offers Joshua no belts. His performance against Tyson Fury showed he could trouble the best heavyweights around, which is a risk Joshua doesn’t need to take.
Joseph Parker’s former promoter, David Higgins, also wants him to rematch Joshua. Parker’s win over Wilder has put him in contention for a rematch following their last fight in 2018. The fight went the distance, but Joshua won a unanimous decision to claim the WBO belt. But Higgins felt Parker was deserving of the shot.
“Joseph has earned that fight [with Joshua] in my opinion and the Saudis would see merit in Parker against Anthony Joshua. It might not be next, there might be a bit more work to do but I think that’s the fight fans want to see. It’s a merit-based fight,”Higgins
Now Hearn has outlined several options for Joshua.
“Right now, we have three fights that we’re in discussions for, they’re all big. And that doesn’t involve Deontay Wilder. Before March, our aim, and we’ve discussed this, is to fight the winner of Fury versus Usyk. That is all we want to do. Obviously, there’s a Hrgovic fight out there for the world heavyweight title; there’s a Francis Ngannou fight out there, which would be absolutely colossal. There are other heavyweights as well; the Zhang fight possibly as well with Queensbury,” Hearn said
Frank Warren has said that a big fight in Saudi Arabia is lined up for March. Joshua will likely be the leading candidate since any undisputed fight between Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev, provided the latter beats Callum Smith, is unlikely for March. Beterbiev faces Smith on January 13th, 2024, leaving a short turnaround time. But a Joshua fight aligns with his plans to fight three times next year, making it more likely.
I still think it will be Hrgovic.
Yes Francis would be a huge money maker. But a risk with the KO power. AJ isn’t chasing money. He’s loaded.
Zhang is just to dangerous. A tricky fighter who can bang. Plus he has a chin.
So the other names are just smoke and mirrors IMO. 🥊
— ɢᴏᴏꜱᴇ (@MMA_GOOSE) January 1, 2024
Joshua vs Zhang is absolutely the fight to make
— Robert Petrov (@petrovr17) January 1, 2024
AJ is toast, he lacks a chin and Francis can THUMP
— 🎬✨🧠 (@emkayultra23) January 2, 2024