With Britain’s newest Heavyweight champion set for major mainstream stardom in 2016, Boxing Base takes a look at Anthony Joshua’s Top 5 biggest threats. Joshua, a 2012 Gold Olympian, has looked mostly untouchable during his knockout-filled sixteen-fight pro campaign. He’s obliterated domestic rival Dillian Whyte, demolished IBF champ Charles Martin inside two rounds, and shouldn’t have too many problems serving up a similar punishment to undefeated Dominic Breazeale on June 25th. Can anything stop the wrath of Anthony Joshua? Let’s get to it…
Anthony Joshua Top 5 Opponents
1. Deontay Wilder (36-0, 35 KO), WBC Champion
Standing at 6’ 7” and possessing a frightening KO-saturated record, Deontay Wilder is a promoter’s dream. Wilder isn’t cut from the same ilk as Joshua in terms of pedigree, but is lean, well conditioned, and most notably athletic, making him a fierce, somewhat rare Heavyweight. Wilder became the WBC champion after conquering Bermane Stiverne in January 2015, and has continued to improve – while getting a few gut checks – against the likes of Eric Molina and Artur Szpilka.
When Will They Meet?: The likelihood of this fight coming together is huge – and even more so as long as neither man suffers a significant setback in the meantime. With Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn preferring to match Joshua with stateside fighters to capitalize on massive network coverage, why the heck wouldn’t it happen? As for the fight itself, it’s high risk-high reward; both men can box, bang, and, at this moment in time, have a collective KO percentage of 99%. Should Wilder pass his Alexander Povetkin test on May 21st, this one looks likely for somewhere around late 2017 as it will probably get the ‘marinate treatment’.
2. Luis Ortiz (25-0, 22 KO)
The dangerous Luis Ortiz may not hold a piece of the Heavyweight crown but, as his ‘King Kong’ nickname suggests, he’s quite the beast. Cuban-schooled Ortiz, who possesses scary power and exceptional ring smarts, has the potential to be a truly great Heavyweight, and is arguably the most avoided fighter of the division. Ortiz, still looking plenty capable even at the age of 37, could prove to be a nightmare not just for Joshua, but anyone on this list.
When Will They Meet?: It’s hard to say when the 6’ 4” Ortiz, who knocked out Tony Thompson and Bryant Jennings in his most recent slayings, could find himself in with Joshua. With Ortiz being a skillful power puncher who is mostly unknown to casual fight fans, Hearn could afford to bypass this guy for a while, or completely depending on how much exposure Ortiz can generate in 2016/17. Playing promoter, it would seem wiser to tackle Ortiz in late 2017, even 2018, as Ortiz edges closer to 40.
Catch HBO’s Ortiz vs Jennings Fight Highlights:
3. Tyson Fury (25-0, 18 KO), WBA (Super), WBO Champion
Never at a loss for words, Tyson Fury is one of the most controversial fighters in boxing. Fury isn’t the most technically-gifted Heavyweight to grace to scene, but his fighting pride and through-the-roof confidence allowed him to achieve a major feat last November: defeat long-reigning champ Wladimir Klitschko. Fury, 6’ 9”, didn’t crush Klitschko as he had threatened to in the buildup, but did manage to contain and outbox Klitschko over twelve rounds. So, love him or hate him, Fury’s career-defining win cannot be denied.
Will They Meet?: There’s a tremendous likelihood Fury and Anthony Joshua will, mainly because it boasts global appeal and significance, plus a ton of money for the fighters, promoters and TV networks alike. It’s fan-friendly. Period. Fury and Joshua both have title defenses scheduled for June and July, so there’s certainly room for a tear-up later in 2016. Joshua’s handler Eddie Hearn has already stated Tyson Fury is a potential opponent who could get the call after Joshua vs Breazeale is through. And, should Klitschko beat Fury in their upcoming rematch, there still looks to be a good chance this matchup will come to fruition. Again, because there’s so much dough involved.
4. Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KO)
‘Dr Steelhammer’ didn’t look sensational when he met with Tyson Fury last November, but the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer is a huge puncher with a wealth of experience. Klitschko, 6’ 6”, isn’t known for his inside game, but is adept in fighting at range, breaking down opponents with a ram-rod jab, and ending fights with a monster right hand. But does the aging Klitschko have enough left to potentially trouble Joshua? That’s hard to say, and don’t think we’ll know the answer to that question until he locks horns with Fury in their upcoming sequel.
When Will They Fight?: Should Klitschko emerge victorious against Fury, he’ll reclaim his WBA and WBO titles, and probably find himself sitting atop the Heavyweight Top 10. Could Joshua vs Klitschko then happen before 2016 is through? Well, that arguably depends on how well Klitschko performs, and, whether Eddie Hearn feels his loyal UK fans would still rather see a domestic blockbuster in Joshua vs Fury. There’s also the issue of Klitschko’s retirement to consider: lose or win, Klitschko may decide to hang’ em up for good post-Fury. We’ll soon see.
5. Alexander Povetkin (30-1, 22 KO)
This guy is a fighter through-and-through, and shouldn’t be underestimated, even if he is a little more vertically challenged at 6’ 2”. While Povetkin has performed well and made a name for himself internationally, there are still questions surrounding his potential to be a true world-beater, however. Povetkin’s opposition – bar Wladimir Klitschko – has generally been solid in recent times, just not exceptional. Not that it’s Povetkin’s fault; with the Heavyweight scene rebuilding itself with emerging new blood, Povetkin has been made to wait for big fights. Luckily the call has now come in, with ex-champ Povetkin set to test knockout artist Deontay Wilder in May.
When Will They Fight?: Povetkin isn’t a likely candidate for anytime in 2016, but anything’s possible, especially since he has a fairly-decent chance of upsetting Deontay Wilder. If he did that, he would obviously thrust himself into the big picture. Win or lose, Povetkin is still a stern enough test for any fighter, so there’s always a chance he could get the call after Joshua vs Breazeale is done and dusted. Povetkin isn’t a marquee name in the UK or US, which could obviously be an issue for Eddie Hearn. Let’s just call Povetkin an outsider for now.
Anthony Joshua Top Threats: Worthy Mentions
David Haye (27-2, 25 KO)
The former Heavyweight champ is back on the scene and, while he looks to be cashing in against some obscure, non-threatening challengers such as Shannon Briggs, is no doubt hoping to eventually retire from a domestic blockbuster with Anthony Joshua. This matchup seems almost certain to happen and, if Haye is on top form, could be a must-see fight.
Lucas Browne (24-0, 21 KO), WBA Champion
The Aussie’s career is currently in peril since failing a post-fight drug test after knocking out solid WBA champ Ruslan Chagaev in March. Things seem to be a little up in the air, and really, a clash with this guy seems very unlikely; but Browne’s a strong, heavy-handed fighter who is (was?) steadily-building his fan base. His unblemished record would also look pretty on the poster alongside Joshua. Browne and outfit Hatton Promotions continue to deny allegations of doping.
Who do you see Anthony Joshua facing after Dominic Breazeale, readers? And who, in your opinion, is Joshua’s biggest Heavyweight threat right now?