With the boxing world keeping close attention on whether or not Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder will square off next year, it now seems as if there are a couple of potential hurdles in both fighters’ ways. These are hurdles that could end up changing the landscape of the heavyweight division.
With Joshua currently holding three of the four major belts in this weight class (IBF, WBA, WBO) and Wilder the other (WBC), there is an obvious clamour for the two men to finally put pen to paper and agree a deal for what would be one of if not the biggest fights in the history of the sport.
Fans may have to wait for the long-desired bout
It was hoped that the fight could take place before the end of the year, but protracted negotiations have put paid to any hopes that we would see this blockbuster take place in 2018. Add into the mix a mandatory challenger for Joshua to deal with and the waters have become further muddied.
The 28-year-old from Watford has first got to get past the tough challenge that Russian fighter Alexander Povetkin will offer in September. With just the WBA version of the heavyweight title on the line, it does mean that not all of Joshua’s hard-earned gold is at risk.
That’s something that means, should Joshua suffer a first-ever professional career defeat, he will still at least be able to call himself a heavyweight champion of the world. However, should this nightmare scenario become a reality, it will only fragment a weight class that is looking to be unified.
Could a move towards UFC be on the cards?
If the former Olympic champion does lose his perfect record in the ring, then perhaps a move to the Octagon is something that he would consider. After Conor McGregor switched disciplines last August to face the legendary Floyd Mayweather, it has opened up a world of possibilites for some of the world’s greatest warriors.
Before his title fight with Tony Parker back in March, Joshua went on to hint that a future MMA fight would be of some appeal. When asked, he said, ‘Yes, it would be an option because it’s been done before and it’s successful.’
It is believed that this is a transition that is perhaps earmarked for the final few years of his career, once all his career objectives have been completed. However, an upset loss to Alexander Povetkin could well accelerate those plans to join the world of MMA.
Unification is the ultimate achievement
The end game in the heavyweight division is for one fighter to be in possession of all four of the major belts that are on offer, a situation that could come about should Joshua and Wilder finally get together in the ring and put all their prizes on the table.
And although Povetkin made relatively light work of David Price back in March – a fight that saw the Liverpool based fighter knocked out in devastating fashion – he will still go onto his next challenge as something of a relative underdog.
Boxing betting is usually weighted in favour of the champion and this fight is no different. There is a huge amount of confidence in the market for Joshua right now; he is as short as 1/16 odds-on with bet365, while the same company have Povetkin at a price of 7/1.
The unpredictability of boxing may come into play
But in boxing, it only takes one punch for a fighter’s world to be turned upside down and Povetkin will certainly be able to cause problems come September 22, when he makes the visit to Wembley Stadium in a bid for the WBA heavyweight title.
Joshua is still not the finished article, but it is fights such as these that will mould him into the fighter he truly wants to be. Although it does present a diversion to his current plans, it could actually be something that benefits him further down the line.
Critics will say that perhaps he is attempting to unify the division too early and, should he come up against Deontay Wilder without the correct number of tune-up fights, it could go on to prove a costly decision. At the same time, though, a few more wins under his belt and the biggest prize of them all will then be in touching distance.