Anthony Joshua’s next fight could be against any of the world’s top heavyweights
He has drawn criticism for his list of opponents, with even the epic win over the great Wladimir Klitschko tempered by the fact that the Ukrainian, 41, was nearly old enough to be his opponent’s father.
But Joshua is in no hurry with his career. At 28, he will fight professionally for the 21st time tonight and has told Hearn that he wants another 10 years in the sport. That may change, but the point stands: if you don’t believe in AJ yet, just you wait.
Kubrat Pulev – or replacement Carlos Takam as it became – was his IBF mandatory defence and once this unification fight is out of the way, the WBA will likely take their chance to order a mandatory.
That means Joshua will have to face the No 1 challenger in the WBA rankings, Alexander Povetkin, whom fans will get the chance to see on tonight’s undercard.
Alexander Povetkin looks set to be Joshua’s next opponent
Povetkin has fought twice since, beating Andriy Rudenko before overcoming Christian Hammer in a final eliminator for the WBA title.
However, Hearn does have an option that does not involve fighting Povetkin immediately. With an eventual Wilder fight set to bring Joshua to a whole new audience in the US, the British promoter wants to prepare the ground by taking his fighter across the Atlantic for a fight ahead of the unification clash, delaying the WBA mandatory on account of a four-belt showdown with Wilder at the end of the year.
“In America would be the best move, and then we do the Wilder fight. Jarrell Miller, Bryant Jennings – I don’t know.”
Unbeaten Miller has been touted as a potential summer opponent for Joshua before while Jennings, whose only two defeats have come against Klitschko and Luis Ortiz, could provide a stiff test for the Brit.
But Povetkin, in a summer fight at Wembley Stadium, remains the most likely option. There is a potential banana skin to that this evening as he faces the towering David Price but the 34-year-old is very much in last chance saloon and should not pose too much of a problem.
Tony Bellew has already said that even if he beats David Haye on May 5, he has no interest in facing the WBA and IBF champ and while Haye himself is desperate to get in the ring for one last hurrah against AJ, there are plenty more worthy opponents.
And then we have Tyson Fury, the wildcard in the pack. The 6ft 9in 29-year-old conquered the world less than two years ago but has not fought since and is only just coming out of battles with cocaine use and depression.
The self-styled “Gypsy King” has promised a summer return to the ring – but it will not be against Joshua. Assuming Fury wins well, he will get the title fight he so desperately wants at some point. However, he will have to wait at least a year and prove he is everything he once was before Joshua deems him fit to fight him.