It’s been a manic few days for Anthony Joshua in the press, and not all of it has been related to his own boxing career. The recent Twitter spat between fellow British pugilist Amir Khan and his now estranged wife named ‘AJ’ as a potential party to their very public breakup, while the retirement of former undisputed heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko also brought Joshua to the forefront, given that their rematch was on the cards.
The Watford Olympian brushed off accusations from Khan and, with a return bout against the Ukrainian now definitely not happening, talk of Joshua’s next tilt has been ramped up.
He currently holds the WBA (Super), IBF and IBO, and it is the mandatory challengers from the WBA and IBF that are making the most noise.
Cuba’s Luis Ortiz (27-0) is the man the WBA has ordered Joshua to face, with the Ortiz camp keen on filling Klitschko’s shoes for a November 11th showdown in Vegas.
“We are next. We have no problem fighting November 11th in Las Vegas,” said Jay Jimenez, the Cuban’s manager.
However, it looks like mandatory IBF challenger Kubrat Pulev will be the next bout, with Cardiff’s Principality Stadium in October the likely venue.
Pulev (25-1) has five straight victories since his first shot at the title in 2014 – a losing effort at the hands of Klitschko in Germany. Now, the IBF have him in first place for a shot at their title against the unbeaten Brit.
The Bulgarian would be a huge underdog, with the boxing betting odds reflecting this at 12/1. Pulev isn’t to be underestimated, having 13 KOs from his 25 professional wins and with good amateur stock, although the 36-year-old isn’t widely expected to dethrone the champion.
It seems Team Joshua are already planning beyond their October challenge, with their sights on unifying the four major titles. Getting past Pulev would be the first hurdle, and then the WBA’s mandatory request of Ortiz would be next.
Then would come the quest for the WBA title, in arguably the most anticipated bout available against unbeaten American Deontay Wilder. In the meantime, the WBA champion Joseph Parker meets Hughie Fury in Manchester in September.
This sets out a busy 12 months for the surging heavyweight, with only one more bout now feasible before 2017 is out. That bout wouldn’t add any silverware to Joshua’s trophy cabinet but it would keep the IBF happy and allow him to solidify his position as the heavyweight division’s most valuable proposition.
“This young man fears no one,” offered Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, as he spelt out the plan moving forward.
As a gold medal Olympian and major world champion just 19 fights into his professional career, it’s clear ‘AJ’ is paving his way to becoming one of our era’s great heavyweights.
If all goes to plan, the current landscape of scattered belts amongst the heavyweight elite will be cleared up, and the Brit can lay claim to the title of undisputed king by the time 2018 is out.