The status of the IBF heavyweight title could yet determine Anthony Joshua’s next opponent.

Joshua is expected to fight at Wembley Stadium in September, and after his fellow Briton Daniel Dubois so impressively stopped Filip Hrgovic he became the favourite to be stood in the opposite corner.

Dubois’ promoter Frank Warren has already said that that is what they are “working on” – Joshua was ringside in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to watch Dubois beat Hrgovic, aware that the winner was to be his likeliest opponent on September 21 – but had Deontay Wilder beaten Zhilei Zhang he would have represented another potential opponent, and Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has revealed that Zhang is also in contention.

In 2018 Joshua defeated Joseph Parker, and after Parker’s victories over Wilder and Zhang he, similarly, is another Hearn says is under consideration. Zhang and Parker are perhaps also less dangerous opponents than is the 26-year-old Dubois.

The winner of May’s undisputed heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk had long been on course to be stripped of the IBF title so that it could be contested by Hrgovic, the organisation’s long-term mandatory challenger, and Dubois. Usyk regardless followed his victory that night by requesting that he retain it so that he and Fury can again fight for the undisputed title in their rematch on December 21; the consequences of whatever decision the IBF take could therefore directly impact Dubois.

How relevant it is that the IBF harmed their reputation in 2023 when stripping Terence Crawford, then the undisputed champion, of their welterweight title remains unclear, but Hearn said: “Ultimately His Excellency [Turki Alalshikh] will decide who the opponent is, with myself, with ‘Josh’, with 258 [Management], but the key for ‘AJ’ is for him to become world champion again. 

“If that’s Dubois for the IBF, that’s probably the frontrunner; if the belt’s not on the line, it might be Zhang, or it might be Parker. Those three, I think, are decent names, but no decision’s been made yet, and I don’t think it will be for another week or so.

“There’s a press conference on the 26th of June, and that’s when we’ll announce, but either or any of them – we don’t really care.

“[What the IBF do will] be part of our decision.

“Yeah, there is [value in Usyk retaining their title], but also a mandatory’s due, and it’s been due for a long time. Having won that fight, Usyk ‘must’ face [interim champion] Dubois next, and he’s not going to, so it’ll likely free up [the title].”

Joshua, 34, also has an agreement to fight the winner of the rematch between Fury and Usyk. In the event of him winning the IBF title in September he will hope that that later fight will be for the undisputed title; there is also the consideration of jeopardising that future date.

“Yeah, for sure, ‘cause he’s got confidence,” Hearn responded when asked if seeing Dubois beat Hrgovic meant he had come to consider him a more dangerous opponent. 

“It’s a very good fight. Dubois’ coming off the [Jarrell] Miller win and Hrgovic – Hrgovic is an absolute, undebatable, top-10 heavyweight. Might even be top five or six, so that was a massive win for him, and he proved that he’s tough enough now. We know he can always punch. He’s very strong. It’s a dangerous fight, and it’s two Brits. 

“I mean, [Joshua] sells out against anyone. But if it’s for Britain – if it’s for the world [IBF] heavyweight title – [Dubois] starts to become a huge fight.”