2018 could be the year we see Anthony Joshua become the millenium’s first true undisputed Heavy Champion of the World, but it won’t be easy – and not just because of the other unbeaten champions he needs to face.
Probably the biggest task facing Joshua, is navigating, winning and holding boxing’s alphabet title soup – the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO – simultaneously.
The 6’6” Londoner may have retained the WBA, IBF and IBO titles after his tenth-round stoppage of Carlos Takam at the end of October, but the prized WBC title remains in the hands of the Deontay Wilder, while New Zealander, Joseph Parker, holds the WBO belt.
It means that 2018 could well be the year the glory days return to the Heavyweight division, with three unbeaten champions ready to go head-to-head, and Tyson Fury also waiting in the wings.
Joshua-Parker set for February
According to promoter Eddie Hearns, Joshua-Parker is already pencilled in for February 3 at the O2 Arena in London.
Despite being an unbeaten fighter with a 24-0 record, Joseph Parker would certainly enter as a big underdog in a match-up with Joshua, who is four inches taller, over a stone heavier, boasts a better (and perfect) knockout record, while also having a considerable reach advantage.
Joshua is such a strong favourite to beat Parker in a potential meet-up that you’ll struggle to find odds of better than 1/20 on the Brit winning. Indeed, bookmakers will likely use the situation to offer a number of free bet offers on Joshua winning the fight in order to draw in new customers.
Assuming Joshua can navigate this potential banana skin, only the World Boxing Organization belt will allude him – lining him up for what will be, by far, the biggest Heavyweight fight this generation has seen with fellow man-mountain, Deontay Wilder, the likely opponent in a summer super fight.
A Unified Champion by the Summer?
It’s the fight everyone wants to see. It’s the fight they both want. And what a fight it should be.
In his latest bout, Wilder annihilated Bermane Stiverne with a brutal first-round knockout in what was the sixth successful defence of his WBO belt. It was the second time Stiverne and Wilder had met, with Wilder earning a victory over the Canadian via a unanimous decision from the judges in 2015 – the only time the Alabama fighter has had to go 12 rounds. But that slight blemish on his otherwise perfect knockout record from 39 professional fights was answered in style the second time around.
Joshua-Wilder looks the perfect match-up on paper. Both are in their pomp and unbeaten, with Joshua 28-years-old and Wilder 32. Wilder boasts a mere one-inch advantage in terms of both height and reach over the Brit, but, based on their previous fights, Joshua will weigh in around 34-pound heavier at a huge 18st 2lb.
With two such powerful punchers going head-to-head, it’s hard to see it going the distance, with the winner probably (and hopefully) becoming the undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world.
The trouble is, the undisputed label is harder to define these days. And one man who would likely to be unhappy with Joshua – or Wilder – being named as such, is enigmatic, and still reigning The Ring champion, Tyson Fury.
Joshua’s third fight of 2018 could well come in the form of Fury, unless he is forced into a mandatory defence of his WBA title.
In his last fight, Fury beat long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko on points to become the WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO and The Ring Heavyweight champion. The trouble is, that fight came way back in November 2015, and Fury hasn’t fought since due to a combination of fitness and mental health issues, along with a drugs ban, which should be lifted in 2018.
Fury, who stands at an enormous 6’9”, would surely need at least one warm-up fight before facing a unified champion, with the Manchester-born fighter extremely out of shape as 2017 ends.
But if Anthony Joshua manages to beat Joseph Parker, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury in 2018, there is no doubt that he will be – without a doubt – the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World, and will go down as one of the greatest boxers of all-time.