2020 is set to be an intriguing year in Heavyweight boxing. It all kicks off with the hotly-anticipated rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury on February 22.
On fight night in Las Vegas, Wilder’s WBC World Heavyweight title will be on the line, and Fury is currently the slight favourite in the latest Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder fight odds.
One of the most interested onlookers will be Anthony Joshua, the WBA, IBO, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion. Joshua is basking in the glory of his rematch victory over Andy Ruiz Jr. at the beginning of December, a win that saw AJ recover his titles having lost them to the Mexican-American earlier in the year.
Joshua has spoken of his desire to fight Wilder or Fury in the future, and has asserted that he would be happy to vacate one or more of his world titles in order to face one of the two sooner. Boxing politics have played their part and Joshua would be required to face mandatory challengers in 2020 to hold onto his belts, but the Watford fighter believes abandoning a title would not take away from his champion status.
“I always said the belts do not represent me,” Joshua said. “I will stand as a champion, even if I have to give one up.”
Of course, the prospect of Joshua taking on the winner of the Wilder v Fury fight is mouth-watering for boxing fans all over the world. But is it the right step for AJ himself? There is still a sense of vulnerability surrounding Joshua after losing unexpectedly to Ruiz last year.
Fighting one of the best heavyweights in the world would be a massive challenge of his mental strength, but you feel that Joshua prefers a challenge on the big occasion rather than a high-pressure fight against a lesser opponent, which most expect to be a formality.
If Wilder were to beat Fury and seek to fight Joshua, then AJ would most probably have to return to the United States, where he never looked comfortable in his first fight against Ruiz. But winning the rematch in Saudi Arabia will have given Joshua hope that he can handle fighting outside of the UK.
Another challenge in facing Wilder would be that the American is probably the only fighter who can punch harder than Joshua. The Bronze Bomber would be a whole new kind of opponent, and Joshua may have to adapt his game to avoid the blistering power Wilder possesses in that fearsome right hand. We saw in Joshua’s loss to Ruiz that the Englishman can be exposed, and you feel that a similar underperformance against a fighter of Wilder’s quality could lead to a swift knockout.
British boxing fans would love to see a match-up between Joshua and Fury, and with many expecting Fury to deliver a strong performance against Wilder in Las Vegas, such a bout could be possible. Fury’s struggles in his time out from the sport have perhaps deceived fighters, pundits, and fans alike into thinking that he has more weakness than he does in actuality. Since his comeback, Fury has demonstrated all the skills that brought him those world titles after beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
Joshua will be watching the Wilder v Fury fight with keen interest, and you can bet that he’ll be weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of both fighters throughout each round. After recovering from that blip against Ruiz, perhaps it’s time for Joshua to showcase his champion attributes on the biggest stage once again, to take on Wilder or Fury and demonstrate that he is the elite of the elite as far as heavyweight boxing is concerned.