Unbeaten heavyweight Anthony Joshua (13-0, 13 KOs) has designs on winning a world title by the end of 2016. In doing so he will be following in the footsteps of British heavyweight world champions; Bob Fitzsimmons, Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis.
It will be no small feat if Joshua can achieve a world title by the end of next year. However to date his promoters Matchroom Sport have not been able to find a significant test for the young prospect. Joshua is currently ranked number two in the WBC heavyweight rankings, but to put him in a world title fight at this point would be career suicide.
The importance of careful match-making is vital in building a future world champion. Joshua has demonstrated great punching power, but it will take more than dynamite in his gloves to win a world title. He needs to be nurtured along and gradually moved up a level with each fight so that his abilities as a fighter are tested without causing a complete risk to his development.
What follows is a summary of potential opponents who would test Joshua along the road to achieving his dream of becoming the heavyweight champion of the world;
6) Mike Perez (21-2-1, 13 KOs): The Cuban born, Irish based southpaw is best known to UK boxing fans as the winner of the 2011 Prizefighter heavyweight tournament. Perez’s physicality and style is reminiscent of Mike Tyson, although he lacks the hand speed and aura of invincibility of ‘Iron,’ Mike in his prime. Perez would provide an interesting gauge for Joshua in terms of how he would handle a world class heavyweight. Perez has faced a number of ranked heavyweights; he fought to a draw with Carlos Takam, lost a split decision to Byrant Jennings and suffered a first round knockout loss to Alexander Povetkin. He would be considered a low risk reputable opponent for Joshua.
5) Dereck Chisora (20-5, 13 KOs): The Londoner has developed a reputation for being the bad boy of British heavyweight boxing. Initially he came to prominence with wins over Sam Sexton and the then British champion, Danny Williams. More recently Chisora has become better known for his pre-fight bust ups with Vitali Klitschko and David Haye. He lost his most recent fight for the British title to Tyson Fury but he remains highly rated by the WBC and IBF with whom he enjoys a higher ranking than Joshua. With Tyson Fury unlikely to jeopardise his chance to challenge for the world title by fighting Joshua, it seems the only way he will win a Lonsdale belt will be if Fury vacates the title. If such a situation did arise Chisora will likely be in the mix as a potential opponent. A win over Chisora will provide Joshua with another recognised name on his record and the opportunity to restore the reputation of British heavyweights.
4) Eddie Chambers (41-4, 22 KOs): The marketability of fighters is part of the modern game, Joshua has the potential to be a global star but key to that is building an American fan base. A win over a credible American such as Eddie Chambers would take him a step closer to superstardom and the title. In 2010, Chambers was the mandatory challenger to Wladimir Klitschko’s crown. He lost that fight by knockout in the twelfth round. Since then he has accumulated a record of 6-3, 3 KO’s, and is currently enjoying a five fight winning streak. With a style that relies on moving in and out of his opponents range and generally fighting with his hands down, ‘Fast,’ Eddie could be tailor made for a debut on the American networks for the hard punching Joshua.
3) Carlos Takam (32-2-1, 25 KOs): The exciting heavyweight from Cameroon has notable wins over a number of heavyweights including; Frans Botha, Michael Grant and Tony Thompson as well as a draw with Mike Perez. Takam would offer a completely different test for Joshua, his work rate is relentless and he has the strength and willingness to get into a dog fight with the young heavyweight. His fight with Alexander Povetkin was considered the heavyweight fight of the year in 2014. Takam would put Joshua under pressure from the opening bell, testing his ability to remain calm under pressure and maintain form. If the pair ever do meet it could be another candidate for fight of the year.
2) Bryant Jennings (19-1, 10 KOs): Currently ranked fifth by the WBC and sixth by the WBA, Jennings represents the type of opponent needed to climb the ladder with the alphabet organisations. The American holds notable wins over Mike Perez and former WBO Heavyweight champion, Siarhai Liakhovich. In his last fight he lost a unanimous points decision to Wladimir Klitschko, who described the fight with Jennings as his hardest in years. The fight demonstrated that Jennings could sustain the punches of a genuine super-heavyweight, make it awkward and even land some of his own shots. This would be an interesting test for Joshua, who would have to deal with an opponent who could potentially withstand his power and give him some problems of his own.
1) Alexander Povetkin (29-1, 21 KOs): The 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist in the Super-Heavyweight division and former WBA Heavyweight champion should be regarded as the most dangerous fighter on this list. With wins over current contenders Mike Perez, Carlos Takam, and Eddie Chambers as well as former champions Hasim Rahman, Chris Byrd, Larry Donald and Ruslan Chagaev Povetkin has proven himself to be the best heavyweight outside of the belt holders. The sole loss on his record came in a failed world title challenge against Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko struggled with Potvekin, persistently clinching and even wrestling him to the canvas on more than one occasion. Currently Povetkin is the mandatory challenger to Deontay Wilder’s WBC title, with Joshua in the number two spot. There is a strong belief that Povetkin could take the title from Wilder if the pair fight later in the year. Whatever the outcome Povetkin is likely to figure in Joshua’s future at some point, and could prove to be the ultimate test for heavyweight glory.