What is next for Anthony Joshua after memorable Wladimir Klitschko win?

George Flood
anthony-joshua-and-wladimir-klitschko-speak-after-historic-battle

In one of the most enthralling sporting events to be held on British soil for decades, Anthony Joshua showed extraordinary courage, resilience and power in front of a post-war record crowd of 90,000 at London's Wembley Stadium on Saturday night (29 April). He hauled himself off the canvas and defeat Wladimir Klitschko via a brutal 11th-round stoppage and earned the prestigious title of unified IBF, WBA "super" and IBO heavyweight champion of the world.

With the dust still to settle on an epic contest and the rumour mill already cranking into overdrive with regards to potential next opponents, IBTimes UK takes a look at what lies in store for the endlessly determined "AJ" as he bids to dominate boxing's most glamorous division and realise his lofty ambition to become the world's first billionaire fighter.

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Klitschko rematch

It was a valiant performance from the formerly dominant Klitschko, who defied his advancing years and long-standing reputation as a dull defensive tactician. The Ukrainian also quickly shed any ring rust caused by a 17-month absence that followed his shock 2015 defeat to Tyson Fury.

In fearlessly going toe-to-toe in a thrilling slugfest with such a powerful and speedy opponent 14 years his junior, the 41-year-old appeared to earn more respect from casual fans in the course of one evening than he had during his previous two decades as a professional.

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Klitschko was quick to stress following a fifth career loss that he was interested in activating a rematch clause written into his contract. Whether he actually chooses to do that or else calls time on a truly illustrious career with his reputation intact and popularity high remains to be seen.

Tyson Fury

"Fury where you at, baby? "

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Joshua was quick to demand a lucrative all-British showdown and the challenge has since been publicly accepted by Fury, who claimed that he toyed with Klitschko whereas his compatriot had experienced "life and death" with the Ukrainian.

Fury has not boxed since that famous night in Dusseldorf, with a potential rematch postponed due to injury and mental health issues.

Joshua vs Fury is undoubtedly the fight that everyone eventually wants to see but, with the latter currently without a licence, there are several potentially key obstacles currently littering the path. The self-titled Gypsy King, while still some way off his fighting weight, claims to have already lost 18 lbs during the early stages of a training camp in Marbella.

Tyson Fury

Deontay Wilder

Reigning WBC champion Wilder had a front-row seat at Wembley in his role as a co-commentator. A high-profile unification clash between two undefeated heavyweights in their respective primes would represent a golden opportunity for Joshua to transfer his immense popularity across the Atlantic.

A Joshua-Wilder scrap seems inevitable providing both records remain unblemished and it seems a case of when rather than if at this stage. However, the Briton, who has never previously fought outside of the UK, will potentially require one or two initial introductory bouts stateside before meeting the Bronze Bomber.

Joshua signed a multi-fight deal with Showtime Sports last year and, according to executive vice president Stephen Espinoza, views a first contest in the US as "a priority".

Joseph Parker

Another of the planet's top-rated young heavyweights, Parker was the main challenger for Joshua's IBF title before becoming the first New Zealand-born fighter ever to claim heavyweight gold by edging a close meeting with Andy Ruiz in December.

The 25-year-old was due to defend his WBO belt for the first time against Hughie Fury in Auckland this weekend, only for the challenger to withdraw due to a lower back injury. Little-known Romanian fighter Razvan Cojanu will provide the opposition instead.

It could be that Parker and Wilder go head-to-head first, with the victor going on to meet Joshua in a mouth-watering winner-takes-all contest in 2018.

Mandatory challengers

Joshua's plans for further unification will need to be carefully balanced with fulfilling his mandatory obligations, particularly when it comes to the notoriously strict IBF. Two-time European champion Kubrat Pulev, whose only previous world title bid was ended by Klitschko, has been the number-one contender for that belt since previous incumbent Parker claimed WBO honours. Indeed, promoters Kalle and Nisse Sauerland revealed in December that the winner of Joshua-Klitschko had been mandated to meet the Bulgarian next with no other contests in between.

Luis Ortiz

Luis Ortiz is the top-ranked contender for Joshua's newly-acquired WBA "super" belt and the Cuban southpaw, who stopped David Allen in December one month after making his European debut in a truly awful clash against Malik Scott, recently expressed confidence that he could KO Joshua within eight rounds. However, he may not get that opportunity anytime soon with organisation president Gilberto J Mendoza previously confirming that the 2012 Olympic gold medallist is entitled to apply for a special permit that, if approved, would effectively allow him to swerve "King Kong" for a more illustrious opportunity.

Then there is the small matter of a potential battle with the winner of June's contest between elder statesmen Fres Oquendo and Shannon Briggs for the WBA regular belt. Do not rule out the possibility of Joshua vacating one of his titles in future as the mandatories begin to stack up.

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