Joshua could face former UFC star in March as exciting shortlist revealed

Anthony Joshua could be the latest boxing superstar to engage in a ‘crossover’ fight after promoter Eddie Hearn revealed the shortlist of potential opponents for his next fight in March.

The former IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight king made it three wins in 2023 with an impressive five-round demolition of Swede Otto Wallin on the ‘Day of Reckoning’ card in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 23.

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Joshua had signed contracts for a two-fight deal with Deontay Wilder next – their first bout was scheduled for March 9. But that dream died when Wilder lost a conclusive decision to Joseph Parker – also on that ‘Day of Reckoning’ card.

Now instead AJ will go another path, with a pretty exclusive list of potential foes as he tries to position himself for a shot at the winner of that Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk unification battle.

Ngannou on Joshua shortlist

Hearn revealed that they include former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou – who took Tyson Fury right to the wire in their Saudi showdown in October. The other possibles are top IBF contender Filip Hrgovic and giant Chinese star Zhilei Zhang.

Hearn told IFL TV: “They don’t involve Wilder for March, our aim is to fight the Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk winner. There is the Hrgovic fight out there for the heavyweight title.

“There is the Francis Ngannou fight which would be colossal. There is the Zhang fight possibly as well with Queensberry.

“The things that AJ wants to do is be in massive fights, win the world heavyweight title, and fight Tyson Fury, or get another crack at Usyk. That’s what Ben [new trainer Davison] wants – another crack at Usyk. For me, obviously, I’d love the Fury fight.”

Hearn re-iterated that, contrary to popular opinion, the chances of AJ and Hrgovic meeting in March for a vacant IBF title are by no means in banker territory.

Hearn on Joshua vs Hrgovic

He said: “A lot has to happen by March to make that possible with Hrgovic. Obviously, Fury and Usyk fight in the middle of February. Are they going to be able to keep the belt? Do they have to let it go? There’s a lot of discussions.

“If that’s in play for March, that’s definitely a possibility. Maybe that’s a fight that, when everything plays out, could be one for the summer.

“As I said, our conversations right now are about mapping out AJ’s next four or five fights … his 2024 and potentially the rest of his career.”

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