With Anthony Joshua becoming only the sixth boxer in history to reclaim the heavyweight title, the division promises another spectacular year in 2020.
Following his unanimous points victory over Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night to take the WBA, IBF and WBO titles back to Britain, Joshua vowed he would not call out potential opponents such as Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury, and simply take it a fight at a time.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the state of the heavyweight division in the wake of Joshua’s win, and what we can expect next year.
While the world is desperate to see Joshua face Wilder to unify the heavyweight division, we will have to wait a while yet for such a fight to come to fruition. It is certain the 30-year-old will first have to fulfil a mandatory fight against either the WBO’s number one challenger Oleksandr Usyk or the IBF’s Kubrat Pulev, with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in April or May slated as the venue and date. Whoever comes first – and providing Joshua wins – the other will likely follow six months later, pushing a potential Wilder showdown into 2021.
Arguably the most explosive puncher in heavyweight history, Wilder was on course to lose his WBC belt in his last defence against Cuban Luis Ortiz last month as he was behind on all the judges’ scorecards until unleashing a devastating right hand in the seventh round for his 41st career KO from his 42nd fight. The only blemish on his card is the draw with Fury a year ago and we await official confirmation of the rematch date – slated for February 22 and likely in Las Vegas – but with no contracts reportedly signed yet.
The past year has been an interim one for Fury as we have had to wait for he and Wilder to finalise the details of their second clash. Fury enjoyed a TKO of the previously unbeaten Tom Schwarz in June and then had a unanimous points success over Otto Wallin in September. Fury, though, was badly cut in that fight, and it remains to be seen how such significant damage has healed for the ‘Gypsy King’, who proclaims himself to be the lineal heavyweight champion of the world.
Andy Ruiz Jr
What next for a man who was on top of the world for six months? Ruiz Jr admitted that he went into his rematch with Joshua overweight and under-prepared, and there is no doubt he was schooled in the art of boxing by the Briton, so there is no value in a third fight – despite both saying it could happen. And as mentioned, Joshua’s mandatory challengers are up next. Even if he racks up the wins, the Mexican-American may now have to wait some considerable time before being given another shot.
The former undisputed world cruiserweight champion has stepped up to prove himself among the heavyweights, with Joshua in his sights after only one fight in the division – Chazz Witherspoon retiring after seven rounds in October. Following Joshua’s win over Ruiz Jr, WBO president Paco Valcarcel quickly tweeted that Usyk be given his shot within 180 days. The Ukrainian southpaw will undoubtedly provide Joshua with a stern test given his craft and movement, but seemingly lacks the power for a knockout win.
Best of the rest
Bulgarian Pulev has been waiting in the wings for some time, with the only defeat of his 29-fight record being a fifth-round knockout from Wladimir Klitschko now five years ago in challenging for the heavyweight title. Will it be him or Usyk first to fight Joshua? And then there’s Dillian Whyte, who returned to action on the Joshua undercard on Saturday with a points win over Mariusz Wach, putting behind him the alleged failed drug test that has blighted his last six months before being cleared by UK Anti-Doping. He deserves a shot after chalking up 11 wins since his only defeat – to Joshua – four years ago. As the WBC’s number one challenger, he could be next in line for Wilder should the latter overcome Fury in their rematch.