Anthony Joshua, the recently crowned IBF/WBA heavyweight king, is arguably THE hottest fighter in the sport right now, yet his next fight will be decided by the man AJ beat in stunning fashion last month.
Wladimir Klitschko, the proud ex-champ who, despite losing in an heroic effort, raised his game to tremendous heights on April 29, has a rematch if he wants to take it. It is now up to the 41 year old: will he retire, or will he demand the rematch, maybe in October or November of this year? Joshua says he is happy to fight “Dr. Steel Hammer” a second time – and the entire boxing population wants to see a sequel, the April battle was so great – even in Germany.
But will Klitschko, a very smart man, opt to walk away, his head held high, or will he decide to roll the dice once more and tangle with the still-to-peak young puncher who hit him with THAT uppercut (in the 11th and final round of a fight some overexcited pundits have said is deserving of being put alongside true epics like Ali-Frazier I and III)?
The ball is in Klitschko’s court, and reports say Wladimir, currently on vacation with his family, will make his decision in early June. If he does walk away, into The Hall of Fame (five years from now of course) it will be IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev next for AJ. This is the word according to Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, who spoke with The Mail.
Pulev, a big, strong and capable heavyweight, has lost just once; by fifth round KO to Klitschko. Can “The Cobra” from Bulgaria give Joshua, 19-0(19) a real fight? As bright as his star is shining right now (and, in truth, has shone ever since his pro debut) Joshua will pull in another huge crowd whoever he fights next; Pulev included.
Joshua-Pulev doesn’t have the appeal or the glamour Joshua-Klitschko II has, but we might be watching it next. Don’t expect another 90,000 sell-out at Wembley if AJ does defend against Pulev next, but The O2 in London would be packed to the rafters. Joshua has it all: popularity, an exciting fighting style and serious credentials.
It’s tough to make a case for Pulev beating him, but Joshua will accommodate the Bulgarian all the same. As he’s said a number of times, Joshua will fight anyone. The mega-fights with the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will come in time.