- Fans desperately want to see the three best heavyweights fight each other
- Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are set for a rematch on February 22 next year
- Joshua wants to take on one of his major rivals before the end of 2020
- But he has mandatory challengers of his own for both IBF and WBO world titles
The clamour for Anthony Joshua to fight either Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder in 2020 rose to a din with his redemptive victory over Andy Ruiz Jr.
But the heavyweight waters remain muddied and there are no guarantees that boxing fans will be granted their wish by the powers that be next year.
AJ is desperate to face one of his major rivals but the path to a super fight will have plenty of hurdles to overcome.
Here, Sportsmail attempts to untangle the web of the heavyweight division and outline what might happen in 2020.
Are any fights actually confirmed?
Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder is as good as done. There hasn’t been an official announcement but sources on both sides have revealed February 22nd to be the date of their hugely anticipated rematch.
That is due to be publicly confirmed with an announcement in the coming days and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is front-runner to host.
Both men signed the agreement for a rematch months ago and even the most skeptical boxing aficionados will expect it to go ahead.
What happens after the rematch?
This is where things could start to get interesting. There has been plenty of talk about a trilogy fight in the summer, a third encounter to put any doubt to rest (and make another truckload of cash in the mean time).
Fury’s promoter Frank Warren told talkSPORT this week: ‘Tyson is going to be back in the ring with Wilder on February 22 and they will fight again, irrespective of who wins, in the summer.’
And when Wilder’s representative Bob Arum was asked if a trilogy is on the cards, he told World Boxing News: ‘Yes, I can assure you of yes.
‘There are a lot of good heavyweights who have had trilogies. This would be a trilogy.’
Despite Warren’s claims, you would imagine the way the second fight plays out will have at least some bearing on the appetite for a rematch.
If Fury comfortably outpoints the American and never looks in trouble, the appeal of a third fight diminishes significantly.
How would this all affect Joshua?
If Fury and Wilder make it a hat-trick, that would take them out of the equation for Joshua for at least the first half of 2020.
Should they fight in a huge summer blockbuster event, it’s likely that they’d want some time off to recover rather than step immediately back into the ring for what would be another war of attrition.
If Fury or Wilder seek a fight with Joshua, that would therefore take place in late autumn or winter, but that’s a big if.
In the mean time, AJ has to keep his own house in order if he wants to hold his titles and unify the division further down the line.
Who does AJ have to fight?
The most pressing concern for the two-time champion is that the WBO have given him 30 days to arrange a fight with his mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk.
Usyk has been in talks over a fight with Dereck Chisora but might shelve those for a pop at the champion.
The WBO have come out and slightly altered the deadline for when Joshua would have to fight Usyk and extended it to 180 days, meaning Matchroom have slightly more time to play with.
Joshua also has a mandatory IBF challenger in Kubrat Pulev and is likely to face the Bulgarian after Usyk, if of course he wins that fight.
So the calendar is already becoming congested and reducing the likelihood of a super fight later in the year.
AJ hasn’t fought three times in a year since 2016 and it would be a serious ask, particularly combined with all the promotional work that goes into pumping up a major pay-per-view event.
And where is Dillian Whyte in this shake-up?
Now that Whyte has been officially cleared by UK Anti-Doping for his failed test, he is once again the mandatory challenger for the WBC belt which is currently in the hands of Wilder.
‘Bodysnatcher’ therefore has the first claim to fight the winner of Wilder’s rematch with Fury, meaning another spanner could be thrown in the works for Joshua.
Whyte is almost the forgotten man in all this but he’s on a ten-fight winning streak which includes some big names and thoroughly deserve a world title shot.
If Wilder or Joshua refuse to take on their mandatory challengers then the division could fracture and make it far more difficult to unify than at present.
The Brit has reaffirmed his desire to take on Fury or Wilder next year but also confirmed his intentions to fulfil mandatory obligations.
‘If I don’t fight those guys I’ll have to give up my belt and I’d rather fight to defend them,’ he said.
What are the other major obstacles?
Even if all the fights go to plan and set Joshua on a collision course with Fury or Wilder, there are no guarantees that terms will be agreed.
Negotiations reached an impasse before when there were fewer obstacles and may do so again. That said, Joshua’s defeat by Ruiz Jr made him look fallible and perhaps gave encouragement to his rivals.
But the main sticking point before was of course over money. That might not be so much of a problem if he’s negotiating a fight with Fury as both men command attention, but Wilder doesn’t possess the same pulling power.
Sky Sports sold £1.5million pay-per-views for Joshua vs Ruiz, banking £40m in the process and Wilder’s recent rematch with Ortiz was only bought 300,000 times.
It’s tough to argue that he deserves an equal slice of the pie.
Eddie Hearn is willing to offer Wilder a 50/50 split to fight Joshua but on the condition that his rematch with Fury is bought by more than one million fans.
As promoters continue to jostle for position and with so many moving parts, the heavyweight division will continue to shape shift in 2020. Fans will be desperate to see the huge fights they crave before the golden generation loses some of it’s shine.