Anthony Joshua remains on course for a future bout with Deontay Wilder after he produced a spectacular stoppage of Robert Helenius at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday night.
Joshua claimed the 26th victory of his professional career with a first knock-out in three years, but even before this bout all the pre-fight talk was about what next for the British heavyweight.
Here we take a look at the state of play for the former two-time world heavyweight champion and the prospect of Joshua vs Wilder taking place.
Was the booing justified?
The Matchroom show had been in doubt a week earlier when Dillian Whyte had to be withdrawn after “adverse analytical findings” were discovered in his doping test with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).
It saw Helenius drafted in at the 11th hour but while there is no doubt a sold-out O2 Arena would have been happy to see Joshua in action, they clearly wanted more from the former Olympian during the first half of the 12-rounder.
Joshua faced whistles and boos during round three and jeers followed after another pedestrian round saw the contest reach its halfway point. A thunderous right hand ensured the next outburst by spectators inside the London venue was applause.
DJ getting a tune out of AJ?
While Joshua was tentative early on against Helenius and did not want to initially trade off with the 39-year-old, some context must be provided. The Finchley boxer had only a week to prepare for his Finnish opponent and there is a number of inches difference between Whyte and Helenius, which would have brought out a significant adjustment for the home favourite.
Joshua struggled to land with his right hand early on but was urged to keep persevering by highly-respected trainer Derrick James in only their second bout together. James told Joshua to “keep shooting the right” and it landed emphatically during the seventh round with Helenius sent toppling to the canvas.
Joshua vs Wilder next?
Even before Whyte’s withdrawal, a large chunk of the discourse around Joshua was whether he would actually fight Wilder next. The former world heavyweight champions have been speculated to lock horns for several years and it would have been a unification contest as recently as four years ago.
Joshua had to block out the noise to do the business against Helenius but after he did, all eyes are now on Wilder. Saudi Arabia promotional entity Skills Challenge is eager to host the mouth-watering clash and dates in January and February are being drawn up.
So that’s that then?
We have been here many times before, not only with Joshua and Wilder but Joshua and fellow Briton Tyson Fury. It seems getting the best of the heavyweight division in the ring together is one of the hardest jobs in the sport. However, there is a lot of reason for optimism on this occasion.
A traditional stumbling block can be the fact world heavyweight champions have mandatory challengers to face, but with Joshua and Wilder holding no belts, they are free to fight whoever they wish. The money on offer should satisfy the demands of both boxers, but Wilder’s trainer Malik Scott did hint this week that his fighter would like to be active before fighting Joshua.
An October bout was proposed but even if that happens, these two generational heavyweights should still trade blows eventually and Joshua vs Wilder could take place in 2024.
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