Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are on course to fight December 23.
Just not versus each other.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that plans and opponents are in place for the pair of former heavyweight titlists to appear on the same show in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Multiple sources informed Boxing Scene that Joshua is in advanced talks to face Otto Wallin, while Wilder would meet former WBO heavyweight beltholder Joseph Parker.
News of Joshua-Wallin was first reported by Tay Jones of the Pacman ATL podcast.
Joshua (26-3, 23KOs) and Wilder (43-2-1, 42KOs) were previously linked to a head-on collision, a rumor which began as part of a planned doubleheader with the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undisputed heavyweight championship. Neither fight transpired in 2023, though Fury-Usyk is now back in play for the first quarter of 2024, which will land at the tail end of Riyadh Season.
Fury kicked off the festivities with his October 28 off-the-canvas, ten-round win over former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.
Once it was realized that the previously hoped-for doubleheader wouldn’t take place, Joshua and his team sought an avenue to remain active in 2023 with or without Wilder in the opposite corner. Wilder, meanwhile, sacrificed his 2023 campaign with hopes of securing a titanic heavyweight clash more than five years in the making.
Plans to share the same card are the closest to an actual direct fight that they’ve come during that time.
Joshua will enjoy a three-fight campaign for the first time since 2016, his first year as a major heavyweight titlist. The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former two-time unified heavyweight titlist outpointed Jermaine Franklin on April 1 in London to snap a two-fight skid, both versus Ukraine’s Usyk in September 2021 and last August.
The next step was a planned rematch versus Dillian Whyte, who tested positive for a banned substance ahead of their scheduled August 12 clash at The O2. The same venue hosted their December 2015 meeting of unbeaten heavyweights, which Joshua won via seventh-round stoppage.
The August 12 show moved forward. Joshua scored a highlight-reel, seventh-round knockout of late replacement Robert Helenius, whom Wilder stopped in the first round of their clash last October 15 in his most recent fight to date.
After the win, Joshua—and promoter Eddie Hearn, specifically—vowed to get a third fight done on the year, as it became apparent he was not going to face Wilder next, despite the former longtime WBC heavyweight titlist’s willingness to go straight into a head-on collision without the benefit of a stay-busy fight.
There was an opening for the fight to land on the December 23 date once reserved for Fury-Usyk. Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren confirmed that Fury would not be able to return that soon given the tougher-than-expected outing versus Ngannou.
Instead, the date will now house separate fights featuring Joshua and Wilder, though both versus respectable opposition once their fights are set in stone.
Wallin (26-1, 14KOs) has won six in a row since a hard-fought September 2019 defeat to Fury. In his most recent start, Wallin outpointed former unified cruiserweight titlist Murat Gassiev over twelve rounds on September 30 in Antayla, Turkey.
The opportunity to face Joshua is a bit of closure for the 32-year-old New York City-based, Swedish southpaw. Efforts were made to land such a fight for any top heavyweight, though Wallin often had to settle for stary-busy fights as undercard filler despite vocal efforts to land a top name.
New Zealand’s Parker has won three in a row, all as part of an active 2023 campaign after an eleventh-round knockout defeat to then-unbeaten Joe Joyce last September 24 in Manchester, England. The former WBO title claimant is has won four of his last five fights since relocating to Morecambe as part of the Fury training team.
Included among his run is a third-round knockout of Simon Kean as part of the October 28 Fury-Ngannou show in Riyadh.
Parker won the WBO belt with a majority decision over Andy Ruiz in their December 2016 vacant title fight between unbeaten heavyweights in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand. Two defenses followed before a twelve-round defeat to Anthony Joshua in their March 2018 WBA, IBF and WBO unification bout in Cardiff, Wales.
Boxing Scene has learned that at least two other heavyweight bouts are being explored featuring former secondary WBA heavyweight titlist Daniel Dubois and resurgent contender Martin Bakole in separate fights. The hope on the part of event organizers is to have all details wrapped up in time to announce by Wednesday, with a Fury-Usyk press conference to follow one day later.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox