Former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will have plenty of opponents to consider for his return bout following back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk.
Chief among the list for Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) appears to be the winner of the Nov. 26 bout between Dillian Whyte and Jermaine Franklin.
Although Joshua knocked out Whyte in 2015, Matchroom Boxing head Eddie Hearn is hinting that Joshua will face the winner of Whyte-Franklin, most likely in March.
Franklin, from Saginaw, Michigan, is undefeated in 21 professional fights.
"I think the winner of Dillian Whyte and Jermaine Franklin is a very, very good frontrunner [for Joshua’s next fight]," Hearn told Fight Hub TV.
“I think Otto Wallin is a very fair fight for Joshua to come back to.
“A lot of these guys price themselves out. Filip Hrgovic is a great fight."
Joshua recently stated that he was 100% open to fighting Whyte next as well. He also said a long-discussed bout with Deontay Wilder “definitely will happen.”
Hearn doubled down on Joshua’s sentiment.
“Definitely,” Hearn said in regard to a Joshua-Wilder fight in 2023. “He was one of the names I mentioned [to Joshua]. I couldn’t say a fight to AJ that he doesn’t [want].”
Joshua and Hearn’s statements came during the duo’s time together in Abu Dhabi during the Dmitry Bivol-Gilberto Ramirez fight.
In that span, the 33-year-old Joshua also said the distractions he deals with outside of the ring have made his boxing career complicated.
“When I'm ready, I'll get back in the ring,” said Joshua. “You know what it is? I ain't champion and it's just hurting a lot. I'm in the gym rebuilding and restructuring everything I got to do inside and outside of the ring. There's a lot that goes on outside of the ring in my life which makes my ring life complicated. So I just need to simplify a lot of stuff outside of the ring and then just put my full attention in the ring, really. Once I have that done, next year I'll be ready.”
“My life is complicated. Boxing has become a bit complicated for me. Everyone is just trying to make the most of this time while I'm boxing and they are doing a good job. But it does affect my ring activity as well. So I just always trying to push all of that stuff away. It's a challenge. I'm just trying to get it out of the way this year so that next year I feel more focused.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com.