Heavyweight Q&A: Can Anthony Joshua still fight Tyson Fury? Can AJ beat Usyk? What next for Wilder?
Just a matter of months ago, Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury were seemingly set to sign the dotted line and commit to what would have been one of the biggest fights in British boxing history.
Now, after Joshua lost his WBA, WBO and IBF titles in a thoroughly one-sided unanimous decision defeat to the supremely impressive Olesksandr Usyk, the heavyweight landscape has taken another drastic shift.
Britain’s wait for a first-ever undisputed heavyweight champion in the four-belt era will now continue until, at the very earliest, summer 2022.
But in truth, the defeat has created more hurdles to overcome than ever before, with the likes of Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte, Joe Joyce and Usyk standing in the way of history.
Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn have both already confirmed they will take the contractually agreed rematch with Usyk, while Fury’s October 9 bout against Wilder could switch things up once more.
So, how does the heavyweight landscape look now? And what could be in store for the rest of 2021 and in 2022? Sportsmail takes a look below…
Anthony Joshua (right) fell to a one-sided unanimous points defeat to Oleksandr Usyk
The Ukrainian became the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion with a stunning victory
Joshua vs Fury: Is the road to undisputed now dead?
In the build-up to Joshua’s bout with Usyk, an Olympic gold medalist, former cruiserweight undisputed champion and undefeated pound-for-pound contender, the talk was still focused almost entirely on the road to undisputed.
Both Hearn and Frank Warren, Joshua and Fury’s respective promoters, insisted the pair would square off should they overcome their individual hurdles.
Fury, who was prized away from the undisputed title fight after Wilder’s successful court appeal, even outlined his next five bouts, with a 2022 Joshua double-header sandwiched between contests against the Bronze Bomber, Whyte and finally Derek Chisora. Those plans have now been derailed.
Fury recently outlined his desire to fight Joshua twice next year for all the heavyweight belts
But Joshua has insisted he will take an immediate rematch with Usyk in February or March
While Fury had hoped for the first of two bouts against his rival to take place in Saudi Arabia in March 2022, Joshua is now tied into a rematch with Usyk.
‘I believe I’ll get a good win in the next fight because of what I learned in this fight. I’m a quick learner, ‘Joshua said. ‘I’ve got the chance to become heavyweight champion of the world again. I’m keeping a positive head on my shoulders.
‘I’m ready to get back to the gym and put that work in. I want to get back on the grind so I can improve. The game plan is to win.’
Clearly the aim for Joshua is to keep the undisputed title fight alive; Hearn has already insisted he’s hoping for a Fury win in two weeks’ time.
But should Joshua fall to a second-straight defeat, the all-British undisputed showdown is perhaps dead and buried.
Can Joshua win the rematch against Usyk?
Two pertinent questions now arise: Can Joshua win the rematch? And should he even take it?
Well, as to the second question, he doesn’t really have a choice. But after receiving a 12-round lesson on Saturday, the answer to the first question would have to be no – not unless serious changes are made.
There were many who held reservations regarding an immediate rematch after Joshua’s shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, but the possible adjustments were there for all to see.
Against a much shorter fighter who utilises almost no head movement and has significantly slower feet, Joshua – an Olympic champion himself – always had the attributes to regain his titles.
Joshua made a number of stylistic changes and comfortably beat Andy Ruiz Jr in their rematch following a shock defeat to the Mexican
But the required changes to topple Usyk after the one-sided affair are much less clear
It’s a different story against Usyk, who comprehensively out-boxed, out-fought and frankly bamboozled Joshua with his expert lateral movement, hand-speed and boxing I.Q.
The argument is for Joshua to abandon any idea to out-box Usyk and instead focus on his size, strength and put in on the Ukrainian early.
But the heavyweight looked gun-shy on Saturday and was hurt on numerous occasions throughout the fight.
Having experienced severe fatigue following a sustained attack on numerous occasions throughout his career, does Joshua really trust his gas tank enough to launch an early onslaught?
Fury’s promoter Warren certainly doesn’t think so, insisting he has no chance of getting the win.
He told Sportsmail: ‘He shouldn’t go anywhere near Usyk – he will never beat him… I wouldn’t even think about it if I was him.’
However, we’ve seen Joshua bounce back from adversity before, and you don’t become two-time heavyweight champion through luck. Writing him off entirely would be a mistake.
Could Joshua and Fury fight without the belts?
While the road to undisputed has been extended at the very least, Joshua has insisted he would fight both Fury and Wilder even without the belts.
‘The belts are fun,’ he said after the loss. ‘It’s great, it’s legacy. But with or without the belts, I’ll fight whoever. The road to undisputed is a nice title to have and a nice title to chase.
‘But would you still watch it, without the belts?
‘That’s the main thing – is you’ve got two competitive fighters in the ring from UK soil, that just want to go toe-to-toe.’
Joshua’s chances of an undisputed bout against Fury would be gone with another Usyk defeat
Yet, the heavyweight has insisted he would fight rivals Fury and Wilder, even without the belts
Though dismissing Joshua’s chances in a rematch with Usyk, Warren also confirmed a bout against Fury can still happen.
‘In terms of fighting Tyson Fury, it can happen,’ he said. ‘Joshua losing has taken away the belts and he is damaged goods now. But people would still buy into that fight. It can happen and it can happen in the UK.’
But while Fury is champion he will still be gunning for the titles, as well as a place in the history books.
On top of becoming undisputed champion, a win over the two-weight world champion would only further add to Fury’s legacy.
And should Joshua lose once more, the Gypsy King will no doubt opt for the Ukrainian rather than his British rival.
Fury and Wilder take centre stage again
Let’s turn our heads towards October 9 now, for that will also have significant implications for the heavyweight division.
Fury takes on Wilder in Las Vegas to complete their trilogy, having drawn their opening encounter before the Gypsy King took the rematch in emphatic style.
After his devastating performance back in February last year, Fury is widely expected to come out on top once.
But Wilder can’t be simply overlooked. This is a man who has 41 knockouts on his 44-fight record.
Wilder is now being trained by retired heavyweight Malik Scott ahead of the trilogy bout
The American, who listed of a barrage of excuses following his damaging defeat, is now working with trainer Malik Scott, having sacked his former coach Mark Breland after he through the towel in against Fury.
Having been out-boxed in both of their two bouts, and having been taken totally by surprise as Fury switched to a front-foot approach in their rematch, Wilder now will be aware he will have to utilise body shots and his jab, rather than simply looking for the big right hand.
Fury rightly comes in as the overwhelming favourite, but it’s a bout that could still go either way.
What next for the loser?
The winner will, of course, look to take on either Joshua or Usyk following their rematch in search of the undisputed crown.
But where does the loser go? Wilder, who most anticipate will come out short on October 9, will perhaps benefit from Joshua’s defeat over the weekend.
Had Joshua won, he would have been tied into a double-header against Fury. Would there have been interest a match-up between Usyk and Wilder had the pair both lost? Arguably not.
Even a mouth-watering contest against Whyte would have been somewhat diminished after succumbing to a second-straight defeat.
Fury emphatically stopped Wilder in the seventh round of their rematch in February last year
But if Joshua is to fall to another defeat against Usyk – who would likely go on to fight Fury – a bout between he and Wilder could still be a mammoth event.
Two knockout artists, who could once have squared off for all of the belts, could instead fight to keep their career’s alive.
Similarly for Fury, he could also be short of any meaningful options with a defeat. Wilder would go onto face Joshua or Usyk, with perhaps Whyte the only intriguing fight left for the Gypsy King.
But if Joshua and Fury are both to lose, the all-British showdown without the belts could then be on the cards.
Who are the other heavyweight contenders?
It’s not just the quartet of Fury, Wilder, Usyk and Joshua in the heavyweight mix.
Leading the rest of the pack is Whyte, who holds the WBC interim heavyweight belt and has been patiently waiting for a title shot for a number of years now.
After falling to a shock stoppage defeat to Alexander Povetkin last year, The Body Snatcher avenged his loss with a stunning knockout of his own in March this year.
Having put himself back in the mix, Whyte now takes on Otto Wallin in a difficult encounter on October 30.
He will also have his fingers crossed that Fury does prevail against Wilder after the Gypsy King promised a December bout between the pair.
‘Dillian keeps going on about how he deserves a world title shot,’ Fury said. ‘Since I haven’t fought in England for a long time and Joshua won’t be ready for December, I’ll fit him in and shut him up. Easy.’
Dillian Whyte put his name back in the mix with a rematch win over Russian Alexander Povetkin
Joe Joyce, 36, is also desperate for a title shot after wins over Daniel Dubois and Carlos Takam
A Fury loss would perhaps once again put Whyte on the periphery, though a future bout with Joshua – with or without the belts – is another potentially stadium-filling event.
There’s also Joe Joyce, who was set to take on Usyk for the title of WBO mandatory challenger before Joshua’s bout against Fury fell through.
The 36-year-old has climbed up the division with notable wins over Daniel Dubois and Carlos Takam, with promoter Warren believing he should now get a shot at Usyk.
Meanwhile, Ruiz is reportedly lining up a fight against either Charles Martin or Luis Ortiz before the end of the year after beating Chris Arreola in his comeback, with Derek Chisora looking to avenge his defeat to Joseph Parker when they meet for a second fight on December 18.
What are the heavyweight fights to look forward to?
Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder III – October 9, 2021
Hughie Fury vs Christian Hammer – October 16
Joseph Parker vs Derek Chisora 2 – December 18, 2021
Dillian Whyte vs Otto Wallin – October 30, 2021
Tyson Fury vs Dillian Whyte – December 2021?
Andy Ruiz Jr vs Charles Martin/Luis Ortiz – December 2021?
Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2 – February/March 2022