Anthony Joshua owns three of the four major heavyweight titles and isn’t ready to let any of them go.
Joshua has mandatory defenses to fulfill for his IBF and WBO belts after evening up the score on Andy Ruiz this past weekend in Saudi Arabia. Currently, the IBF mandatory challenger is Kubrat Pulev, while former undisputed cruiserweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk, is the WBO mandatory challenger. Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn told ESPN on Monday that they are in the beginning stages of determining Joshua’s next steps.
“He certainly doesn’t want to let [go of the titles] in the ring, or out of the ring,” said Hearn. “The IBF seems to be the one that was certainly ordered first. But I’ll need to speak to Daryl Peoples (president of the IBF), I’ll need to speak to ‘Paco’ (Francisco Valcarcel, the head of the WBO).
“(Joshua) certainly wants to make sure he can keep every belt. So that’s what we’ll be trying to do.”
Hearn also represents Usyk, who made his heavyweight debut on Oct. 12 by stopping late replacement Chazz Witherspoon in seven rounds in Chicago. If it’s Pulev who gets the first crack at Joshua in 2020, Usyk will most likely face Dereck Chisora ”in early March, and then he fights the winner of Joshua-Pulev,” Hearn said.
Joshua’s next fight will most likely take place in April.
“It’s a very tough decision because there’s six countries that are interested in staging his next fight,” said Hearn. “We’re at a stage where it’s very difficult to go backwards financially, in any job, especially for a fighter. The place where he would earn the least amount of money is in the UK.
“But it’s probably his preferential choice in terms of all things being equal — where would you rather go? 100 percent, back to the UK.”
Joshua, whose parents are both of Nigerian descent, revealed on Monday that somewhere down the road, his goals would also include defending one of his heavyweight belts in Nigeria.
“People had been telling me I should go back for ages,” he told reporters. “It was crazy because they don’t have 24-hour electricity, but they still know me and support me.
“I went to the ghettos of the ghettos, where it’s not all about egos and beef, it’s about people who are hungry to survive.”
He added: “It was one of the best things I’ve done. Africa’s rooting for me for sure, so I would definitely love to fight out there.”
Hearn also mentioned that Joshua would like to return to the Madison Square Garden, where he was knocked out by Ruiz in their first encounter back in June.
While Joshua has three of the major belts, the WBC title will be contested for on Feb. 22 when Deontay Wilder faces Tyson Fury in a rematch of their disputed draw last December. That fight should definitely factor into the future plans for Joshua, but Hearn is dubious.
“We can’t rely on any of these two because we’ve been there before with Deontay Wilder,” said Hearn of the current WBC champion, of whom he said past attempts to make a bout with Joshua were fruitless. “It’s going to be really interesting to see what Wilder says now, because when Joshua had the belts and we were pushing for the fight, he never really said that he wanted to fight Joshua.
“Even though we were consistently trying to make a deal and saying in the media that’s the fight we wanted. And then when (Joshua) got beat, he said, ‘I want to be undisputed, one face, one name, blah, blah, blah’ and then he starts saying he wants the winner of Joshua-Ruiz,” Hearn added.
”So now we hope that energy remains, and now that Joshua has beat him, we hope that he calls out Joshua and says what he said previously — which is that he wants to be undisputed. We missed out on that fight last time, now we have another chance. He’s still got to beat Fury, and that’s not necessarily a done deal. If Fury wins, then we’d have to look at that fight, as well.”
Hearn admitted the last efforts to make a Joshua-Wilder fight were hampered as things seem to become very personal between the two sides.
“We made so many errors, we wasted a lot of time, last time, and it definitely affected our mindset,” stated Hearn, “And I think it affected Anthony, he just lost faith in the sport. That it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make an undisputed fight, and there was only one piece of the puzzle that didn’t want to fall into place. I think he was disillusioned with the sport. But his love has been brought back, the hunger, with being a two-time heavyweight champion.”
Hearn’s believes that a Joshua-Wilder matchup is worth significantly more now than when this fight was first discussed in 2018.
“So from our side, nothing has ever changed — he’s always wanted the Wilder fight, and he wants to be undisputed,” said Hearn. “And we’re not going to waste our time with time-wasters. If they’re serious and they’re real, let’s get to the table and make it happen.”
But he also makes it clear, “We can’t base ourselves around them, they slowed us down last time. We’ve got to focus on our own business.”