Only moments after Anthony Joshua's ho-hum unanimous decision victory against Joseph Parker to unify three of the heavyweight world titles before a sold-out crowd of 78,000 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday, the question that always comes up was asked: What's next?
How about a Parker rematch! I kid, I kid, because as eagerly anticipated as the fight was, it failed to deliver a single dramatic moment or truly telling punch in 12 lackluster rounds as Joshua boxed his way to the victory against an ineffective Parker, who moved, moved, moved at long range and rarely sat down on his punches. He seemed intent on going the distance but not actually winning the fight.
Much of the post-fight talk centered on the prospect of a showdown between Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs), 28, of England, and fellow world titleholder Deontay Wilder for the undisputed world championship in the biggest fight the heavyweight division has to offer -- and one of the biggest fights in boxing period.
So here's a look at the apparent candidates to face Joshua in order of my preference:
1. Deontay Wilder
This is the big one. Nothing on the table comes remotely close to the hype and excitement of Joshua and Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), 32, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, squaring off in a fight that could unify the four major belts for the first time.
They are both undefeated power punchers. They are clearly the best two heavyweights in the world in whichever order you want to put them. They both own Olympic medals (Joshua gold in 2012 and Wilder bronze in 2008). They are both charismatic.
This is the fight that should happen next. Wilder and his team have been calling for it. They are not asking for a 50-50 split of the money (60-40 in Joshua's favor is more realistic and Wilder's team knows it) and they are willing to fight in the United Kingdom if that's where it will generate the most money, though it probably would generate more in Las Vegas than the U.K. because of higher ticket prices and an American pay-per-view revenue stream.
Joshua said after the fight he wanted the match -- "Wilder, let's go, baby! Let's go!" he yelled after the fight while still in the ring. But his promoter, Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn, continues to send mixed signals on if he is ready to legitimately sit down and negotiate the bout next or if he wants to have Joshua fight another fight this summer first while he continues to insult Wilder co-manager Shelly Finkel and denigrate Wilder's de facto promoter Lou DiBella.
In a perfect world, which this is not, they will fight next, be it this summer or fall.
2. Tyson Fury
Other than a fight with Wilder, a fight with countryman and former champion Fury is easily the biggest fight for Joshua, though the chances of it happening next are virtually zero. It probably can happen further down the road but for many reasons not next, not the least of which is because Fury, who only recently was allowed to get his boxing license back from British regulators, has not boxed since he upset Wladimir Klitschko to win three major belts and the lineal crown in November 2015. Joshua has since collected each of those belts.
Fury (25-0, 18 KOs), 29, has had all kinds of personal problems -- drugs, alcohol and mental health -- since defeating Klitschko. He also ballooned in weight. He claims he is back on track and training again, but he will need at least one tune-up fight before a fight with Joshua is even remotely possible. There has been talk of a June 9 return for Fury. Before a fight with Joshua is realistic, Fury needs to show the public that he can be taken seriously again as a fighter and that means getting back in the ring for at least one fight first.
3. Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller
Although Miller is co-promoted by Dmitry Salita and Greg Cohen, his last fight and his next fight are on cards promoted by Hearn. There's a reason for that -- because he is a leading candidate to land the next fight with Joshua. But that comes with a caveat: It would happen only if Joshua fights in the United States, which he claimed he was not very interested in doing after beating Parker.
"All these years the U.K. fighters had to go to America, everyone had to spend a heap of money to go to [Las] Vegas. We can do [my next fight] in London, Wembley, Cardiff -- it's local. We're staying right here," Joshua said in the ring after defeating Parker.
Regardless of Joshua's comments, money talks and Hearn has been talking to officials from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Miller's hometown, about a possible Aug. 25 fight there with Joshua. If that comes to pass, having the hometown fighter Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs), 29, as Joshua's challenger makes sense. Miller also makes sense because he would be viewed an underdog and not much of a true threat that could derail a fight with Wilder at the end of the year or in early 2019.
Miller, however, has to come through against France's Johann Duhaupas (37-4, 24 KOs), who got knocked out in the 11th round of a 2015 title fight against Wilder, on April 28 in a fight at Barclays Center on the Daniel Jacobs-Maciej Sulecki undercard.
4. Dillian Whyte
In December 2015, in the fight before Joshua won a world title, he battled countryman Whyte and avenged an amateur loss by stopping him in the seventh round of a mostly one-sided but very exciting fight to win the vacant British heavyweight title.
But Whyte (23-1, 17 KOs) buzzed Joshua and has won seven fights in a row since, including a crushing sixth-round knockout of the year contender against Lucas Browne on March 24. After that victory, Whyte, 29, once again called out Joshua for a rematch (as well as Wilder). Whyte has gotten better since the first encounter with Joshua and the British public would eat up the rematch that would surely be filled with trash talk. The rematch figures to happen eventually. If Joshua doesn't fight Wilder next and decides that he doesn't want to fight Miller in the United States, Whyte probably would get the call. It's also a relatively easy fight to make for Hearn.
5. Alexander Povetkin
Russia's Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs), 38, a former secondary world titleholder, fought on the Joshua-Parker undercard and had a rousing battle with England's David Price. He dropped Price in the third round, survived a knockdown later in the third round and then scored a crushing KO of Price in the fifth round.
Povetkin, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist who also has twice tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs as a pro, was on the card because he is a logical future Joshua opponent in that he is now ranked No. 1 by two sanctioning organizations, making him a mandatory challenger whom Joshua will eventually be ordered to fight. But Joshua doesn't have to fight him just yet, so while a Joshua-Povetkin fight is certainly possible -- and Povetkin did look vulnerable against Price -- there are more interesting options for Joshua's next fight.
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