Anthony Joshua's once-sparkling boxing career hit the skids over the past few years. But the former heavyweight champion's next fight has a chance to set things back on track, and potentially earn him the big showdown with Tyson Fury he's chased for years.
A knockout loss to heavy underdog Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019 cost Joshua the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles and put the first blemish on his professional record. Prior to that he had gone 22-0 with relative ease, rarely being tested. He earned his belts back thanks to a unanimous decision win over Ruiz in Saudi Arabia. A dominant knockout win over Kubrat Pulev in December of 2020 made it seem like all was well, but then Oleksandr Usyk came along.
Joshua and Fury had all but agreed to finally fight, but Deontay Wilder wound up winning a ruling to force a rematch with Fury. That left Joshua to face Usyk, who was the WBO's mandatory challenger, on September 25, 2021. Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, showed up at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and dominated Joshua in a unanimous decision upset. It got so bad, Usyk nearly stopped the champion in the final seconds of the final round.
Anthony Joshua's Next Fight
Immediately after the fight, Joshua triggered his rematch clause in an attempt to earn back his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles. The rematch is reportedly on the brink of being announced as final details are hammered out. It is likely to take place on August 20, after an original target date of July 23 was scrapped.
Joshua has been here before. After suffering the upset loss to Ruiz, he had to regroup and find his championship form again. He'll need to repeat the feat against the unbeaten Usyk.
The 32-year-old Joshua is still awaiting the megafight that has avoided him despite a wildly successful career. He never got a much-discussed unification bout against Wilder, and might miss his chance at Fury if he can't beat Usyk. Even if he does defeat the tough Ukrainian, Fury might decide to retire before Joshua gets his shot.
Still, a win over Usyk would put firmly place Joshua as the second-best heavyweight in the world. The pressure on Fury to give him a shot -- and the money involved for both fighters -- might be too much to pass up. But a second loss to Usyk would leave Joshua far on the outside of the championship picture with a long road to climb back.
Whatever happens in August will set the course of Joshua's career for the next several years. A win will put him right back on top. A loss could send him to the wilderness of the heavyweight division.