Eddie Hearn believes Anthony Joshua has no shortage of viable opponents waiting for him in the wings.
Hearn, the longtime promoter of London’s Joshua, is keen to get his star charge to follow a more active boxing schedule. Joshua is coming off a hard-fought loss at the hands of WBO, WBA, IBO and IBF champion Oleksandr Usyk in their heavyweight unification rematch last month in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Since the fight, Hearn has been adamant that Joshua can easily rebuild his career by fighting more frequently, and has suggested December or early next year as the next ring date for his heavyweight.
Hearn thinks there are a slew of attractive options for Joshua that are ranked within the top 15 of the governing bodies. Hearn made it clear, however, that Joshua nor himself are interested in pursuing walkovers, saying the potential opponents would need to offer some “element of risk.”
“The last thing that AJ wants is a gimme fight,” Hearn said on The DAZN Boxing Show. “We’re not interested in gimme fights. There’s got to be an element of risk. There’s got to be an element of risk.“
Asked to specify some of the opponents he had in mind for Joshua, Hearn named Dillian Whyte, Filip Hrgovic, Zhilei Zhang, and Otto Wallin.
Joshua knocked out countryman Whyte in 2015; Croatia’s Hrgovic beat China’s Zhang in an IBF eliminator last month on the Usyk-Joshua II undercard in a fight that many thought Zhang did enough to get at least a draw, if not a win; and Wallin, the Swedish contender, made a name for himself in 2019, when he troubled Tyson Fury in their 12-round bout before settling for a unanimous points loss.
“Dillian Whyte is not a fight for December, but it is a fight for March and the summer, 100%,” Hearn said. “It’s a big stadium fight in the UK. You’ve got Filip Hrgovic, who just won. I think it was a poor performance from him. Zhilei Zhang looked good. Otto Wallin, also had a close fight with Tyson Fury.”
Hearn’s suggestions would be entirely contingent on whether or not a proposed fight between Fury and Joshua materializes in the near future. Fury, the WBC titleholder, recently called out Joshua to an all-British super fight, and the two are now, according to Hearn, involved in preliminary negotiations.
“Dillian Whyte is a very good fight,” Hearn continued. “I want to give Dillian Whyte a fight in November, and then I would like to make the AJ fight, subject to the Tyson Fury stuff.
"These guys have to get active. Talking to Dillian yesterday, he fought in March 2021, and then his next fight was in April ’22 … an AJ that fights every three months is going to be a tough guy to beat, once that confidence is going, once the belief in his training team is going. Originally, the plan was December, February, March, and that could be Dillian Whyte, and then going into a Fury or [Deontay] Wilder fight.”