If Anthony Joshua does not end up getting his immediate rematch with heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk, the British star will not lack for suitors.
Because of the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, Usyk, who is currently back home in Ukraine, may not be in a position to defend the heavyweight titles (WBO, WBA, IBF) that he wrested off of Joshua last September at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Usyk (19-0, 13 Kos) and Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) agreed to a rematch this summer and were planning on a venue when the Ukraine crisis exploded on the world stage in late February.
Should that scenario become a reality in the next few weeks, Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, suggested recently that his charge could take up an interim bout in the summer.
Both Hearn and Joshua have come out and said that they wish to contract the services of a legitimate top-rated contender, not a tomato can, for the potential interim bout. Joshua himself has suggested a slew of top-rated opponents, including Otto Wallin and countryman Joe Joyce. Hearn noted that Joshua would even be open to facing former heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder.
One heavyweight who was not on Joshua’s short list recently threw his hat in the ring: Luis Ortiz, the Cuban southpaw, whose name has been linked with Joshua’s for the past few years.
“Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz would love an opportunity to step up to the challenge of facing Joshua,” Ortiz manager Jay Jimenez told Sky Sports.
A few of the heavyweights on Joshua’s shortlist reciprocated the heavyweight’s interest, like Swedish southpaw Wallin, who tried to pitch Joshua on why he is the best candidate for an interim bout. Unlike Ortiz (33-2, 28 KOs), who looked shaky in his last bout against Charles Martin, and Joyce, who is not a southpaw, Wallin believes he is the ideal opponent for Joshua specifically as it relates to preparing for Usyk.
“I’m by far the best option here,” Wallin posted on his Twitter. “Wilder is coming off back-to-back KO losses against Fury that I took the distance and sent to the hospital to get 47 stitches.
“Ortiz got dropped twice by Charles Martin that Joshua wiped out in 2 rounds. I think Joe Joyce could give AJ a good fight but he’s nothing like Usyk.
“The only reason Joshua wouldn’t pick me as the opponent is because they know I’m a big threat and I’ll hand him his third loss.”
The 31-year-old Wallin (23-1, 14 KOs) made a name for himself in 2019 for his better-than-expected effort against WBC heavyweight titlist Tyson Fury.
As for Joyce (13-0, 12 KOs), the 36-year-old was all ears to Joshua’s call out.
“Two GB Lions in an all British Heavyweight Showdown!” Joyce tweeted. “This fight would be massive. I’m highly ranked and undefeated. Let’s Get It!”