AJ-Dubois, Wilder exit - What next for the heavyweights?

Split image of Anthony Joshua in the ring, Oleksandr Usyk in the ring and Deontay Wilder in the ring
Anthony Joshua (L) is on an impressive winning streak [Getty Images]

For the first time in almost 25 years the heavyweight division has an undisputed champion in Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk.

The weight has always been boxing’s glamour division and after years of disputes outside the ring preventing the best fights, fans are now getting to see the rivalries settled between the ropes.

With Usyk’s epic win over Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, and Daniel Dubois’ resurgence, what is next for the heavyweight division?

Will Usyk-Fury 2 be for undisputed title?

The Usyk-Fury rematch has already been confirmed for 21 December. That is the working date after plans for an October rematch were quickly put aside.

At 37, we could be witnessing the final chapter of Usyk’s incredible career while Fury, 35, will have an opportunity for revenge after his first career defeat.

The only question that remains is whether the contest will be for the undisputed championship.

Usyk has requested an exception from the IBF after it said he would be stripped of his title if he doesn’t fight his mandatory challenger.

The sanctioning body is considering the request, but did make Dubois' bout with Filip Hrgovic last Saturday a contest for the IBF 'interim' heavyweight title. Dubois will be upgraded to world champion if Usyk is stripped of his IBF belt before his rematch with Fury.

The IBF's decision will have big ramifications for the rest of the division.

What next for Wilder?

Deontay Wilder’s brutal stoppage defeat by Zhilei Zhang will have been hard to watch for many fans.

Once the most feared puncher in boxing, Wilder has seemed a shadow of himself in his past two fights.

Three epic encounters with Fury might have taken a lot out of the American, and successive losses to Joseph Parker and Zhang appear to have brought an end to the era of the 'Bronze Bomber'.

Wilder said before the fight he would seriously consider retirement if he suffered another defeat, but there has been no official announcement about his future.

He would have plenty of options if he continues fighting and seems to be popular with the Saudi Arabian powerbrokers.

But Wilder turns 39 in October and throwing in the towel is a strong possibility.

Comeback kings Dubois & AJ collide

Joshua, 34, is on a real hot streak since losing his world titles to Usyk in 2022.

The Watford fighter appears to have got his swagger back, with three stoppages in his past three fights - two of them outright one-punch knockouts.

He is expected to headline at Wembley stadium on 21 September. The frontrunner to face him is domestic rival Dubois, who is also on a comeback trail.

Former world champion and foe Parker is another option for Joshua, considering his recent wins over Zhang and Wilder.

Dubois, however, is an attractive option because the fight could be upgraded to a world-title affair if the IBF choose to strip Usyk.

Joshua appears to be on a collision course with Fury over the next 12 months, regardless of what happens in the Gypsy King's rematch with Usyk.

Were Joshua to become a three-time world champion in the meantime, or should Fury beat Usyk, it would elevate an already highly-anticipated match-up even more.

Heavyweight match-ups among heavyweight prospects

Beyond the potential world title fights, there are plenty of British heavyweight prospects to get excited about.

Joe Joyce continues his comeback campaign against Derek Chisora on 27 July, which promises to be a bruising affair considering both men’s all-out style.

The rematch between Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke is pencilled in for the autumn. After a brilliant first encounter in April ended in a draw, it is all to fight for in the second bout.

The undefeated ‘Romford Bull’ Johnny Fisher headlines for the first time against Alen Babic on 6 July in London, while English heavyweight champion Solomon Dacres defends his title and unbeaten record against David Adeleye on 20 July in Birmingham.

There is also Scotland-based Congolese Martin Bakole, who sits atop the WBA’s heavyweight rankings, while British teenage sensation Moses Itauma will continue his rapid rise and fight at least twice more this year.

The 19-year-old has won all nine of his bouts, seven by knockout.

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