By Gav Duthie: Considering the circumstances in Ukraine, AJ gets a free pass not to fight Oleksandr Usyk. Naturally, what’s happening in the land of the WBA, IBF and WBO champions puts boxing high on its priority list.
AJ would have been heavily criticized for avoiding Usyk, but under these circumstances the situation is completely understandable. Many articles have already discussed who he should face.
Wilder would be the biggest fight there, and a house dust with Joe Joyce has also been mentioned. Maybe even Tyson’s cousin Hughie Fury could be a shoutout.
Of course, given Joshua’s profile, he can’t make a point. You can forget the Wach, the Duhaupas and the Kuzmin of this world; every AJ fight needs a hit call.
To give a slightly different perspective, why doesn’t AJ add to his preparation for Usyk when he returns by fighting a southpaw. It’s impossible to create the footwork and ring IQ, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Left-handed options based on (Boxrec top 50)
#11 Luis Ortiz 33-2
#14 Otto Wallin 23-1
#19Charles Martin 28-3-1
#28Jerry Forrest 28-4-2
#29 Zhileil Zhang 23-0-1
#34 Demsey McKean 21-0
#35 Mike Balogun 18-0
#38 Zhan Kossobutsky 17-0
Let’s be honest; it’s not a big group to choose from, so it can’t go that route. Luis Ortiz, in all honesty, is one of the biggest names and has a good IQ.
He looked vulnerable in his last fight against Charles Martin, but he deserves one last big fight. Ortiz is like Shavers of the 70s and Ruddock of the 90s, hugely popular, and he could definitely give AJ some trouble.
Otto Wallin has only lost to Tyson Fury and is a well-skilled operator. Joshua has beaten him twice in the amateurs, but it’s a game he might not get excited about, but that’s okay.
Wallin’s promoter, Dimitry Salita, feels DAZN owes him a fight considering Dillian Whyte’s fight was canceled. Charles Martin has already been destroyed by Joshua, and Jerry Forrest just isn’t a big enough game despite two strong performances in draws against Zhilei Zhang and Michael Hunter, respectively recently.
Zhilei Zhang agreed to fight Filip Hrgovic in an IBF final eliminator earning $290,000 as 40% of the purse offer and would have been a good opponent for Joshua. They have fought before as AJ defeated him in a close quarters fight at the 2012 Olympics.
Demsey Mckean is a Dazn fighter, and the Aussie is looking for good exposure this year. To be honest, he’s as close to Usyk as you can get. It’s not as polished, but its style is similar but with a lower guard.
He was AJ’s most prominent sparring partner for the Usyk fight. The last two would not be acceptable. Mike Balogun picked up a nice win over the late Tommy Morrison’s son, Trey Lippe, so the former linebacker is doing well, but it’s a step too far.
Kazakh Zhan Kossobutskiy has a great record of being undefeated and stopping all but one of his 17 wins, but he’s a slow mover, and without a big name, it’s a pointless fight.
It’s a good idea to get some extra left-handed practice, but in reality opposition is rare. Fans would probably only accept Luis Ortiz as a big fight, maybe Otto Wallin as an okay fight, and while I love Demsey Mckean, that would be a tough sell.