Former two-time champion Anthony Joshua is set to go into a heavyweight retreat following two defeats against the formidable Oleksandr Usyk.
AJ, the last decade’s British Pay Per View star, fought his first legacy opponent since Wladimir Klitschko in Usyk but came up short twice.
Now, the debated 2012 Olympic gold medalist is set to drop down even below his usual level of foe for a fight double in the spring and summer.
Joshua is looking to face Matchroom stablemate Dempsey McKean in April before a rematch with the faded Dillian Whyte around July.
First will be the unheralded McKean. That’s according to reports and interviews with the Australian and his team.
Talks have been underway for some time. The target was singled out for a contract by Eddie Hearn in 2021 as a possible comeback fight.
So who is Dempsey McKean? – Well, he’s an also-ran contender rated 52 in the world with an eight-year career behind him. He’s amassed a 22-0 record and a Top 15 world ranking.
However, McKean has yet to face one test with a pulse, not even anybody on the fringes of the world rankings.
The best record he’s gone up against was Patrick Korte. The 38-year-old German was 18-1 when they met in October. McKean blasted Korte out in three rounds, proving nothing regarding his title credentials.
McKean will be easy work for Joshua. That’s probably the whole point of the exercise.
But it’s a far cry from Usyk, Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, or even former rival Andy Ruiz Jr.
Dillian Whyte rematch
Once Joshua bulldozers McKean in London and sells over 500,000 doing so, he’ll then move onto a grudging return with Whyte.
The pair traded blows in 2015 on Sky Sports Box Office. By then, Joshua had too much for Whyte despite being wobbled early on.
When they meet again, both will be considerably more battle-weary damaged goods following losses to Usyk [twice] and Ruiz [for Joshua] and Alexander Povetkin and Fury [both devastating knockouts] for Whyte.
Whyte has taken more punishment than Joshua, so it should be another relatively easy route to victory.
That puts Anthony Joshua back in contention with all the major sanctioning bodies due to his earning potential. All four of the IBF, WBA, WBC, and WBO will be jumping at the chance to offer the Londoner an eliminator or mandatory status.
But when facing the winner of Fury vs Usyk, Joshua is limited in his options. Nobody will buy into another fight with Usyk. Joshua cannot win.
One fight title shot
Therefore, Fury is the only hope for Joshua to adhere to Hearn’s plan. He needs “The Gypsy King” to win to land a final shot at the heavyweight crown.
Even then, if Fury defeats Usyk, he has a mass of mandatories to undertake. Joshua might have to land one of Daniel Dubois, Filip Hrgovic, Joe Joyce, or the winner of Wilder vs Ruiz to earn his chance through beating the number one contender.
All that could take until 2024 as Joshua aims for one last shot at the sport’s biggest prize.