There was an overlap of more than a year where Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder were unbeaten and held every major heavyweight title between them.
Both have since suffered multiple title fight defeats though it hasn’t at all dulled demand for meeting between the hulking heavyweights. In fact, Joshua’s side is more confident than ever of such a fight taking place in the year ahead.
“[Joshua] wants to return with a Top 15 guy. Then in the summer probably versus Dillian Whyte and then a megafight with Deontay Wilder,” Eddie Hearn, head of Matchroom Boxing and Joshua’s career-long promoter, revealed during his most recent appearance on The DAZN Boxing Show podcast. “The key is we want him to fight three times this year. There’s an open line with Shelly Finkel (Wilder’s manager). [Wilder] is going to fight Andy Ruiz, that fight was ordered by the WBC.
“AJ’s gonna fight probably the first week of April. When people talk about rebuilding. There’s no rebuilding here. We’re just looking for momentum. I’m talking about—I’m not talking about a fight against someone you never heard of. I’m talking about a Top 15 guy that AJ can fight with a new team, then go on and have a big stadium fight in the summer. I’m not even ruling out fight two, number two of the year against Deontay Wilder.”
Joshua (24-3, 22KOs) has not fought since a repeat defeat to Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13KOs) in their WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight title fight last August 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former two-time unified titlist has suffered two straight defeats, having not won since a ninth-round knockout of Kubrat Pulev in December 2020 mandatory title defense.
Wilder (43-2-1, 42KOs) returned to the win column with a first-round knockout of Robert Helenius on October 15 in Brooklyn, New York. The feat ended a two-fight skid, with both defeats coming in knockout losses to Tyson Fury (32-0-1, 23KOs). The first came in February 2020, ending Wilder’s five-plus year WBC title reign.
By that point, Joshua lost and regained his WBA/IBF/WBO titles following a knockout loss to and decision win over Andy Ruiz in their pair of 2019 title fights. The loss to Ruiz came in June 2019, roughly 14 months after beating Joseph Parker to add the WBO belt and defend the WBA/IBF titles while Wilder held the WBC strap.
Both are now on the outside looking in at the title picture, even more so as Fury and Usyk are deep in talks for what presently serves as an undisputed championship showdown. It may not matter, as Joshua and Wilder could turn to each other in their respective quests to enter another title reign.
“The plan now is to rebuild [Joshua] to become a three-time heavyweight world champion,” noted Hearn. “It's all very well being brave, listening to Twitter, going out and fighting Deontay Wilder [next]. But there has to be a plan, a smart plan. This is an important moment we must get right.
“I truly believe Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury are nailed on for 2023. They have to be. [Joshua] wants to be in the biggest fights possible and he has been for his whole career.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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