Anthony Joshua recently missed out on the opportunity to unify the heavyweight division for what would have been the first time in almost two decades.
The 28 year-old, unbeaten in 21 bouts as a pro, was handed a golden handshake worth an eye-popping $50 million – only to see a massive United States Pay-Per-View debut go up in smoke.
Joshua, who holds a huge UK following, is now left to step away from fellow-champion Deontay Wilder and concentrate on the less dangerous and aged Alexander Povetkin in September.
For ‘AJ’, 2018 could have held so much more promise than what’s currently in store.
Wilder has turned to playing hard-to-get, meaning any future advances to fully unify the division are looking precarious for the Londoner, who faces a diet on also-rans without ‘The Bronze Bomber’ in the frame.
Kubrat Pulev, Jarrell Miller, the winner of Dillian Whyte v Joseph Parker – both of whom he’s beaten – and the unheralded Martin Bakole potentially lie in wait for Joshua down the line, leaving a lot to be desired as United Kingdom punters prepare to fork out their hard-earned cash for each and every event on Sky Sports Box Office.
Ordinarily, only the Parker fight has any justification for PPV, meaning Wilder and newly-returned rival Tyson Fury are a must for Joshua to trade blows with before it’s too late.
Fury’s dramatic weight-gain (and loss) will no doubt have taken a huge toll on his body and gives ‘The Gypsy King’ less time in his prime at the top. Plus there’s always the significant danger that the 29 year-old would fall off the wagon and be out for another lengthy spell.
Then there’s Wilder, who at 32 is possibly coming to the end of his own superior years.
That could give Joshua just two years to gain the respect of those past champions he looks up to and seal a long-lasting legacy to be proud of by beating both men before the end of 2020.
No doubting the Klitschko fight will live long in the memory, although that’s more for the fact that Joshua was almost knocked out – rather than dethroning the Ukrainian – who was well past his best years at the time.
It’s highly conceivable that Fury could only be back in boxing for the short-term, and Joshua battling Wilder at 34 or over would take some shine off any impending triumph.
Taking stock of his career is imperative for Joshua moving forward, with the UK contingent set to allow the 2012 Olympic gold medallist a gimme against Povetkin before he has to begin chasing the biggest fights in the division.
Joshua’s apprenticeship ended when Klitschko was halted at Wembley Stadium, and taking out the likes of a Pulev and Povetkin (both over the hill), Jarrell Miller (too heavy to be mobile enough) and someone he’s already beaten (Whyte or Parker) on the back of win over Carlos Takam will only line his pockets without gaining any credibility.
Wilder and Fury are key components in the Anthony Joshua boxing pension, and the sooner he agrees to tackle both – the better it will be for the whole of the sport.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay