Britain’s IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is lining up a first defence of his newly acquired belt, most likely to be on June 25th at the O2 Arena in London.
Talk of a possible unification with Tyson Fury has been played out in a media frenzy since Joshua defeated Charles Martin last week, whilst a fight with David Haye has already been put on the backburner until 2017.
Haye is fighting on May 21 in another low-key clash, this time against Arnold Gjergjaj, before then engaging in a September outing with American veteran Shannon ‘Let’s Go Champ!’ Briggs.
As world title holder Fury is tied to fighting Wladimir Klitschko again on July 9, a massive UK unification is also off the menu until next year at the earliest as Joshua has to agree a fight with the winner of Joseph Parker v Carlos Takam by November this year when the winner of that contest would be available.
So who are the challengers in the frame?
A quick look at the IBF rankings tells you that Joshua may struggle to find a suitable opponent until the new rankings for March 2016 are released. The 26 year-old has to pick from the Top 15 rated boxers on the International Boxing Federation list and there aren’t too many options on the table.
Number three Erkan Teper is currently under a cloud due to not one, but two failed drugs tests, whilst Takam and Parker are then positioned at five and six after Joshua himself at four (before he won the title).
At seven is Vyacheslav Glazkov who is nursing the knee injury suffered when losing in the vacant championship clash with Joshua victim Charles Martin last January and the Russian would not be ready to return by a summer date.
Eight and nine are Kubrat Pulev and Dereck Chisora who collide for the European title on May 7, which effectively pushes them out of the picture for the time being.
Then we come to the first possible contender to battle Joshua, undefeated Andy Ruiz Jr who is currently scheduled to fight on May 14 in California. An offer from Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn could potentially sway Ruiz handlers at Top Rank to rearrange the Mexican-American’s schedule.
At eleven is former WBC title holder Bermane Stiverne, who proved a tough nut to crack for Deontay Wilder and could be a good option for Joshua to aim for the KO ‘The Bronze Bomber’ couldn’t manage.
Twelve-rated Robert Helenius is now out of the picture following defeat to Johann Duhaupas, whilst UK rival Haye then comes in at thirteen.
Two Americans in Dominic Breazeale and Jarrell Miller come next, although it’s datable whether either would be willing to leave the comforts of home to take on Joshua in his own backyard.
That leaves Stiverne, Ruiz or possibly even Duhaupas himself (soon to be ranked) as the best three options for Joshua until the new ratings are released by the IBF in the coming days.
Once the new list is made public, a clearer picture will begin emerge as to where Joshua is likely to look for what is certain to be another huge outing for the talented star on Sky Sports Box Office.