Britain’s Heavyweight hero Anthony Joshua has proved himself to be the real deal, surviving some shaky moments en route to chopping down Wladimir Klitschko. But what’s next for the newly unified IBF and WBA champion? Let’s get stuck into the unbeaten Joshua’s Top 5 challengers.
Anthony Joshua Top 5 Opponents
1. Tyson Fury
25-0, 18 KO (RING Champion)
I was tempted to actually list Klitschko (below) here, but, despite his huge effort against Joshua, I think we need some new blood for the top spot. Man, where do I begin with Tyson Fury? Is he truly great? Does that razor-thin decision over Klitschko from November 2015 still make him a genuine Top 10 player on today’s scene? And can Fury successfully return following some very dark times between the ears? There’s also the issue of losing that ‘extra padding’ around the middle.
Despite all that uncertainty, Fury should be appreciated for what he’s achieved in boxing. Although his fight with Klitschko wasn’t a classic, he did take a large collection of belts that night, handing Klitschko his first loss in over fifteen years. Fury was a huge underdog, and perhaps what is overlooked by many is Fury’s subtle tactics that night, such as feints and lateral/jerky movement. In a nutshell, Fury isn’t particularly refined in a conventional boxing sense, but he’s highly unpredictable, and, let’s not forget, at 6’ 9”, a Heavyweight behemoth.
Chances of Meeting: Assuming Fury can deal with his inner demons and return to a reasonable fighting weight, Joshua vs Fury seems almost certain at some point. With Britain high on ‘Joshua Fever’ right now, a domestic clash against a flamboyant character like Fury should fill Wembley Stadium in a heartbeat.
Prediction: Fury has underrated movement and that ‘unpredictable something’, but I think Joshua would smash through that enigma by steamrolling Fury, just as he did Klitschko in the 5th round. Of course, nothing is ever a foregone conclusion when it comes to the ‘Gypsy Warrior’.
2. Wladimir Klitschko
64-5, 53 KO
You may be wondering why Klitschko, who Joshua knocked down thrice en route to a stoppage just days ago, is filling the No.2 spot. Personally, I have no qualms with it, for the simple reason that, as of this moment, Klitschko’s record eclipses that of every other Heavyweight on this Top 5 below (even the Heavyweight World Top 10). Klitschko also put in a stellar performance against Joshua, not only competing and spitting in the face of his loyal ‘no-chin’ naysayers, but coming dangerously close to winning. Yes, Klitschko, 41, is nearer to retirement than everyone else listed, but would you know it from that valiant performance?
Chances of Meeting: If Klitschko still has the desire to fight, then it looks very possible. Joshua and Klitschko, along with their respective outfits K2 and Matchroom, seem to get on just fine, so in a promotional sense, and certainly a marketing one, it should be easy enough to make and push to fans. Let’s just hope a potential sequel happens sooner rather than later as Klitschko’s advancing age could become an issue.
Prediction: In a rematch, who knows? Klitschko put his dreary Tyson Fury performance to sleep after shocking us all against Joshua, even dropping and outboxing the young lion in places. I certainly wouldn’t overlook Klitschko in a rematch, or against anyone in this Top 5, including Fury.
3. Deontay Wilder
38-0, 37 KO (WBC Champion)
We could slam the calibre of Wilder’s last five opponents till dawn, but let’s remember that, until Joshua stepped it up against Klitschko, Joshua’s own record was no better. In short, we shouldn’t write off Wilder just because he’s been fighting fringe-contender types since claiming his career-best scalp, Bermaine Stiverne, in 2015. Let’s also remember that Wilder was willing, and set, to face a top-ranked Alexander Povetkin last year (until things got icky with Povetkin’s pre-fight drug test).
So maybe we’re yet to see the best of Deontay Wilder and what can be unleashed against the kind of adversity Anthony could offer? Even if Wilder has already hit his ceiling – which I think is way too early to comfortably say – the man carries true Heavyweight power. Yes, that 38-0, 37 KO slate is kinda fluffy, but, even still, nobody chimes up a 97% knockout rate by accident.
Chances of Meeting: I’ve got a strong feeling this fight is going to happen more sooner than later. After all, there’s got to be good reason for Wilder flying to London, commenting on Joshua vs Klitschko, and getting his mug splashed all over international TV screens. And let’s face it, Wilder could likely retire from an Anthony Joshua bout payday here. The fight itself would be embraced, in Britain and stateside, and the longer both men remain undefeated, the higher the demand should get.
Prediction: It’s too early to say, but, based on what we’ve already seen from Wilder, I’d favour Joshua, probably by a mid-rounds knockout. Wilder’s not always the best at executing ring generalship, as witnessed more recently against Gerald Washington and Artur Szpilka. And so, perhaps due to a lack of Amateur pedigree, I question whether Wilder can get himself into the best position to land those dynamite hands.
4. Luis Ortiz
27-0, 23 KO
This guy can really fight. The only thing in doubt is whether Ortiz can conquer a bona-fide contender/world champion. Ortiz is accurate, has dangerous power, plus that priceless Amateur background that a lot of today’s Heavyweights lack. And Ortiz cut his teeth in Cuba, which should really count for something when he lands his first ‘big’ fight. It’s hard to be too sure of Ortiz’s chances against Joshua. Yes, Ortiz looks like the real deal. Yes, his ‘King Kong’ alias is fitting. But we need to see him square off against a legitimate threat before becoming fully convinced.
Chances of Meeting: Matchroom promotes both Joshua and Ortiz, which is more than a good start, considering half of the fighting in boxing is done between people in suits. The only problem is that Joshua has just become a global boxing sensation, whereas Ortiz, despite being a quality fighter, is a total stranger to most casual fans. I’m not saying this fight can’t happen, cos’ it absolutely could. It just seems unlikely for the moment, purely because Ortiz isn’t making a lot of noise.
Prediction: Assuming Ortiz can cut it against top Heavyweights, and as long as this fight doesn’t happen too late for the 38-year-old, he has a good shot at winning, mainly because of his refined ability, deft inside game, and fight-ending power. Both fighters could score knockouts here, but I’d back a close decision for either man in a technical, calculating affair.
5. Joseph Parker
22-0, 18 KO (WBO Champion)
Parker ditched his training wheels after putting in a disciplined, measured performance against Andy Ruiz Jr last December. The fight was competitive, with Parker taking a close decision to bag the vacant WBO title, but that’s not a knock on Parker since the matchup was considered 50-50 going in. Really, there’s an argument for Parker and Ortiz (above) either switching places in this Top 5, or both holding the No.4 spot. For now, it doesn’t really matter, since splitting hairs isn’t much fun.
Prior to Parker’s meeting with Ruiz, I’d have heavily favoured Joshua to whoop him. But I think Parker showed a lot of poise and improvement against Ruiz, notably controlling his composure, not relying on power too much, and just boxing well behind a stiff, active jab. Parker still has a lot to prove, but has now shown that he isn’t just another one of those overhyped Heavyweight flavours that seem to pop up all over the place.
Chances of Meeting: On the face of it, this fight seems far from impossible. A big obstacle could be agreeing on the fight venue, however, since Joshua and Parker are big stars in their respective England and New Zealand. But who knows? If the money is right, and one of these guys can be motivated to go on the road, something could come together.
Prediction: Like Wilder and Ortiz (above), it’s hard to say with any real conviction how Parker would fare against Joshua. From what I’ve seen, Parker seems to have more in common with Wilder than he does Ortiz, in that Parker, while a big puncher with decent abilities, hasn’t shown overly strong fundamentals. Again, it’s probably just too early to start making predictions.
How do you see Anthony Joshua handling all of the above? And who would pose the greatest threat? Hammer out those predictions in the comments below.