Eddie Hearn knew that Anthony Joshua’s sole interest was to become a three-time heavyweight champion. In order to do so, however, the longtime promoter had to do clever guessing and matchmaking.
Currently, Oleksandr Usyk owns two victories over the former Olympic gold medalist, making a third showdown between them incredibly unlikely. Tyson Fury was the remaining major belt holder in the division but with the WBC titlist making it difficult to lock in a deal, Hearn pushed Joshua in another direction.
After racking up consecutive wins against Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius, Joshua will look to make it three in a row when he takes on Otto Wallin on December 23rd, in Saudi Arabia. Facing someone the caliber of Wallin has left several in boxing circles bemused about Joshua’s plans. Wallin, who once gave Fury hell, is confident in his ability to score the upset. And while facing him may seem dangerous, Hearn believes it was completely necessary.
With both Fury and Usyk finally agreeing to get it on in February for the undisputed title, Hearn sees an opening. No matter who comes up short, both sides can activate an immediate rematch clause. But just because they’ll likely meet up on two occasions, it doesn't mean the stakes will be the same.
Hearn is banking on the IBF stripping the winner of their title, making it the perfect opportunity for Joshua. Of course, Joshua has to run over Wallin. But if he does, Hearn revealed that Filip Hrgovic, the sanctioning body’s number one contender, will be next up for his man.
“If the belts become available early next year, then it would be number one against number two,” Hearn told Boxing Social. “If AJ beats Wallin, he puts himself in line to fight Hrgvovic for the vacant title.”
Hearn’s plans might sound like an easy path to follow, but they’re very much contingent upon several factors. Number one, Joshua has to take care of business against Wallin. Number two, Hrgovic has to wipe the floor with Mark De Mori, a 41-year-old journeyman he’ll be facing on the same card.
Both are the odds-on favorite for a reason. But even if they turn in their tests and receive passing marks, the boxing public would incredulously roll their eyes at a Joshua vs. Hrgovic showdown. It isn’t because they would produce dull action but more so due to the giant elephant standing in the room in Deontay Wilder.
On that exact card, Wilder will square off against Joseph Parker. Hearn, unsurprisingly, will be watching and rooting for the former WBC champ. For years now, he’s done his best to have the pair jump into the ring with one another once and for all. His recent admission of a Hrgovic clash, however, would leave many believing that he’s changed his mind. That notion, nevertheless, is the furthest thing from the truth.
“It’s still an absolute priority for us.”