Mapping out Anthony Joshua's fights in 2020
Joshua will stay active after reclaiming his belts from Andy Ruiz. With several options in front of him, what does next year hold for the British boxer?
A masterclass in Saudi Arabia has put Anthony Joshua in elite company as a two-time heavyweight champion of the world.
But while the 30-year-old holds the WBA, WBO and IBF belts again, he does have a long way to go to restore his reputation as the best in the division.
Ruiz’s demolition of him in June still lingers, while Joshua’s cautious display in the rematch will not have worried Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.
What comes next for AJ? Will we see all four belts unified in 2020? Let’s try and work it out.
Wilder v Fury II is imminent
Although not officially confirmed, Wilder and Fury are set to meet in a rematch on 22 February, with the American’s WBC belt on the line.
Their first bout, which took place in December 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, ended in a controversial draw.
Both fighters have since fought – and won – twice, maintaining their undefeated records and upholding their claims to being the best heavyweight in the world.
A unification fight against the winner is the ultimate aim for Joshua – there has not been an undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999 – but there are a few hurdles to get over before that can happen.
Who next for AJ?
Holding multiple belts brings opportunity, but it also brings problems.
Within hours of reclaiming his belts in Diriyah, Joshua was ordered to face mandatory challengers Oleksandr Usyk and Kubrat Pulev by the WBO and the IBF respectively.
Usyk has fought just once at heavyweight but is clearly the more dangerous of the two mandatories, being the first boxer ever to unify all four cruiserweight titles.
Pulev, whose only career loss came against Wladimir Klitschko, was scheduled to fight Joshua in October 2017 but was forced to withdraw through injury.
AJ welcomed a fight with Usyk in the aftermath of Saturday’s victory, but promoter Eddie Hearn has hinted that Pulev is the more likely opponent, with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a potential venue.
Joshua will not want to wait long to get back in the ring, with his career now moving forward again after a rough 2019, so his next bout is therefore likely to take place by May at the very latest.
Is a unification fight possible?
Following his first defence, Joshua will have a decision to make.
By this point we will know the winner of Wilder v Fury II, and the road to a unification bout will be clearer.
Does he take on the other mandatory challenger – likely Usyk – or vacate one belt for a shot at the WBC strap?
The former seems more likely, as both Joshua and Hearn have made it clear he does not want to give up any of his belts.
The obstacles to a unification fight also point towards another mandatory defence.
Joshua, Wilder and Fury are all tied to deals with different broadcasters – AJ is with DAZN, Wilder with Showtime and Fury with ESPN – which complicates things.
Wilder, in particular, will be tough to negotiate with – a year of discussions in 2018 came to nothing – with the ‘Bronze Bomber’ claiming a fight against Joshua will “never happen” after the Brit’s win in the Middle East.
If Fury wins, however, then an all-British showdown at the end of 2020 is more likely – the ‘Gypsy King’ will be desperate to fight for the undisputed title before retiring.
What if that doesn’t happen?
Joshua will not be short of options if a unification bout proves impossible in 2020.
Dillian Whyte, Adam Kownacki and, of course, Andy Ruiz are potential opponents at the back end of the year.
AJ remains the biggest draw in the division, regularly packing out 80,000-seater arenas, and he will have no qualms about staying active and raking in the millions.
So, with everything considered, AJ will be eyeing up a three-fight year in 2020.
First up will likely be Pulev, then Usyk and, hopefully, to round things off, a fight to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Disclaimer: This is heavyweight boxing, and anything can happen.
Visit Betway's boxing betting page.