LONDON (AP) — No sooner had Anthony Joshua brutally dispatched another pretender to his heavyweight titles than attention turned to who the British fighter would face next as he seeks to clean up boxing's most glamorous division.
An eagerly anticipated fight on Dec. 1 will go a long way to clearing that up.
Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion, is scheduled to take on Tyson Fury, the former champion before drug and health issues got in the way, somewhere in Las Vegas. It's a fight between two unbeaten heavyweights who represent the biggest threat to Joshua, the WBA, IBF and WBO belt-holder, and could provide his next opponent.
Joshua, now with a 22-0 record after toughing out a victory over Alexander Povetkin in front of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, said he isn't bothered who wins out of Wilder and Fury. In fact, he even suggested he won't even watch it.
His promoter has other ideas, however.
"We want Wilder," Eddie Hearn said.
For Hearn, Wilder vs. Joshua — pitting the two biggest punchers in boxing together — would be one of the biggest fights in boxing history and would be must-see viewing, stylistically. There's also the issue of unifying the belts while the opportunity is there.
"We want to be undisputed heavyweight champion of the world," Hearn said, looking across to Joshua.
Hearn also sees Fury, a loudmouth out of the ring and a pragmatic boxer in it, as something of a turn-off.
"I don't want to be disrespectful here, but Tyson Fury is the most unentertaining fighter I've ever seen," Hearn said, dismissively. "He's never been in a good fight in his whole career. Deontay Wilder against Joshua is the biggest fight in world boxing and it's the most exciting matchup you can make."
The Wilder and Joshua camps negotiated last year for a fight — there was talk of $50 million on the table — but couldn't find a middle ground. Hearn is eager to resume talks and agree to a deal in the coming weeks that can be rubber-stamped as soon as Wilder beats Fury. He said $50m would be "peanuts" compared to what could be offer next year.
"I don't want to wait until December for him to finish his fight, get some rest and then start negotiating," said Joshua, who is contractually obliged to return to Wembley on April 13 for his next fight. "I start training for a fight again early January. I want to get my fight fixed as soon as possible this side of the year, so I know what I'm doing next year."
Aside from what will undoubtedly by tough negotiations with Wilder's people, another possible barrier for Hearn will be if Fury wins on Dec. 1. That would make a rematch likely, and also make Wilder a less-appealing prospect.
Joshua would then have to turn to someone like fellow Briton Dillian Whyte for his April 13 fight.
So, it's a case of wait and see for Joshua, who has a seven-month break before getting back in the ring. He'll do so with more experience in the bank after a difficult fight against Povetkin that started with the Briton getting a busted nose in the first round and ended with a devastating flurry of punches that sent the 39-year-old Russian nearly stumbling through the ropes.
In his last two fights, Joshua has beaten the previously undefeated Joseph Parker convincingly on points and then inflicted only Povetkin's second career loss. They were both ranked as the No. 3 heavyweight in the world when they took on Joshua, who realistically only has two credible rivals currently in the division.
Fury has returned after a 2 1/2-year absence with two almost farcically easy fights, which gave him some much-needed time in the ring but barely proved a thing.
Fury vs. Joshua — the bad boy against the poster boy — would get Britons excited but Wilder vs. Joshua really gets the pulses racing.
"No problem, I fight whoever," Joshua said. "I'll always knock them down, one by one."