Whyte, Wilder Or Fury? What's Next For Anthony Joshua After Beating Jermaine Franklin?

Following AJ's unanimous decision win over Franklin on Saturday, we take a look at who the British heavyweight could face next
10:00, 03 Apr 2023

It’s all over bar the shouting as Anthony Joshua secured a unanimous decision win over Jermaine Franklin at the O2 Arena on Saturday night. What was expected to be a straightforward assignment for the two-time champion was surprisingly competitive. With an important comeback victory behind him, snapping a streak of two defeats, Joshua can afford to look to the future.

What will that future look like for the Olympic gold medalist? Certainly far brighter than it did when his two most recent displays were losses to unified champion Oleksandr Usyk. On pure performance, Joshua’s much-improved display in the rematch last August should have restored some shine. ‘AJ’ may have lost by split decision, but Usyk is one of his era’s finest boxers after all. 

The fact Joshua gave him a tough time of it in the second bout should have been a moment of consolation. Instead, Joshua’s startling post-fight tantrum took all the headlines. The beaten challenger threw Usyk’s hard-won belts out of the ring before embarking on an incoherent, rambling rant. The public meltdown erased Joshua’s in-ring efforts for the majority of those watching.


The Franklin win has got him back on the right track. Though there is a portion of fans who would accept nothing less than Joshua boarding a time machine and knocking out prime versions of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson in one afternoon. Coincidentally, many of those same fans were all too happy to watch WBC champion Tyson Fury beat Derek Chisora for the third time in December. ‘The Gypsy King’ handed ‘Del Boy’ his 13th career defeat last winter, in the sort of mismatch it is hard to imagine fans tolerating from ‘AJ’.


Which brings us on nicely to the matter of Joshua’s next opponent. Despite the fact you could make an entire Netflix documentary series on their previous failed negotiations, Joshua vs Fury remains one of the most attractive fights out there. A heavyweight battle of Britain on a scale not seen since Lennox Lewis knocked out Frank Bruno 30 years ago, this one would be pure box office.

We know how Fury works by now, of course. He is a supernaturally talented fighter, one of the most gifted heavyweights of the last quarter-century. But all his high-profile negotiations seem to go the same way, unless they’re with Deontay Wilder. ‘The Furious Method’ as we’ll call it,  a title we’ve borrowed from his Sunday Times bestselling book, is as follows.

1. Challenge big name heavyweight in an amusing social media video

2. Promise something ridiculous. The fight will be on free-to-air TV. The tickets will cost 7p. Anyone wearing a bowler hat will be given a free drink. The loser has to give up his last name. If it’s something Vince McMahon would put on the line at WrestleMania, then it’s perfect.

3. Agree with all the opponent’s demands.

4. Decide that you don’t agree with your opponent’s demands, because he’s a big dosser. You want an 80/20 purse split with the first six rounds of the fight in Abu Dhabi and the second six rounds in your garden. Call him “mush” as well, he’ll hate that.

5. When your opponent agrees, record a video saying the deadline was actually last Thursday, he’s a big dosser and you’re fighting Derek Chisora or Deontay Wilder again.

One wonders if these convoluted instances of avoidance are psychological for Fury. After all, his formative boxing years were spent trying to secure a fight with David Haye that was canceled on several occasions. At that stage in their respective careers, ‘Hayemaker’ was the A-side name who kept pulling out while it was Fury who was the frustrated opponent. Does he inflict similar infuriating negotiations on his opponents as a sort of revenge? Is every man he faces across the negotiating table actually David Haye in his eyes?

Pop psychology aside, a fight between ‘AJ’ and Fury is too good not to make. Granted we’ve been saying that for five years, but it still rings true. Joshua’s losses will soon be forgotten when the build-up starts. While we’ve been cruelly denied a true prime-for-prime series of fights between the two, not meeting now as they approach the home straight of their careers would be a waste.


Assuming Fury does go the Chisora IV route though, and blame ‘AJ’ for it, what then? Usyk is out. Nobody has any appetite to see that again, probably least of all Joshua. He boxed well the second time but still never looked like dethroning the unified heavyweight king. So where else can Joshua turn?

Eddie Hearn has long spoken of matching Joshua and Dillian Whyte up again. They met in a thrilling 2015 contest as up and coming heavyweights. Joshua won by seventh-round TKO, but not before getting genuinely rocked for the first time in his pro career. In truth this is not the most thrilling option. Whyte has looked on the slide in recent fights, being beaten by Alexander Povetkin and Tyson Fury while being lucky to edge past Jermaine Franklin. A rematch with ‘AJ’ would be lucrative but would exist mainly to get Joshua another win and another couple of million in the bank.

Perhaps that’s not the worst thing for a fighter who admits he is driven largely by financial reward. If Joshua can’t be the best, and his travails against Usyk suggest that’s the case, perhaps he’ll have to settle for being the richest. But one fight that could put him back amongst it at the very top of the division, and make him even richer along the way, is a clash with Deontay Wilder.

It is also the riskiest proposition available to him. ‘The Bronze Bomber’ carries the sort of power that can separate anyone from their senses. Joshua has been stopped before by Andy Ruiz Jr. He has also been knocked down by the likes of Wladimir Klitschko. Wilder could find a way through. But Wilder has been knocked out himself and Joshua carries power in those gloves. This one has all the ingredients of a heavyweight classic. World class power coupled with vulnerability in each man.

Whyte remains the likeliest bout for Joshua next. Hearn has long talked about a three-fight plan, in which a theoretical comeback bout was followed by Whyte and then one of Fury or Wilder. ‘AJ’ is on schedule to make that a reality, though one senses Wilder is a far likelier opponent than Fury, who is hard to pin down in negotiations. Whichever route Joshua embarks on, it will be perhaps the most pivotal period of his career so far.

Pictures: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

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