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Who will Anthony Joshua fight next?

anthony-joshua-120819-Mark-Robinson-mr-ftr (Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)

It would be nice to think that Anthony Joshua would simply face the winner of the Feb. 22 rematch between WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury for undisputed heavyweight glory. That would be too easy, though. Because politics is very much entrenched in the boxing business, it may never happen.

With Wilder fighting under the PBC banner on Showtime/Fox, Fury with Top Rank on ESPN and Joshua with Matchroom Boxing on DAZN, there's a mess of contractual red tape to sort through. The history between the three, and especially between Joshua and Wilder, means that such negotiations could remain on ice.

After Joshua beat Andy Ruiz Jr. on Saturday, he was asked whether he wanted a unification bout against Wilder.

"Yeah, definitely. I would love to. I've united four," Joshua told reporters. "It's hard to keep and unite them. We will see what happens. I think me chasing, same in the fights, it may come crashing down. I'm just gonna let the path take its course. When the opportunity presents itself, I'll step up and take the challenge."

So, who will Joshua fight next after putting on a boxing clinic against Ruiz to become a two-time unified world heavyweight champion?

The WBO announced immediately after AJ's victory that Joshua must make a title defense against Oleksandr Usyk within 180 days. 

Joshua's reaction?

"I'll whoop him," he said of the former undisputed cruiserweight champion at his postfight press conference in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

The fact that Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) and Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) are 2012 Olympic gold medalists promoted by Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn and fight on DAZN would seemingly make booking a fight between the two a seamless transaction.

Joshua, however, is facing another mandatory title defense with the IBF against Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs). Then again, if Joshua and Hearn believe a bout with the Bulgarian would lack sizzle, then they could opt to vacate that strap and forgo the matchup. Usyk would seem to be the more challenging opponent for Joshua, anyway, based on footwork and pure boxing skills alone.

Usyk is just getting his feet wet in the heavyweight division after moving up from cruiserweight earlier this year, but the combination of him being Joshua's mandatory WBO challenger and the money that would be attached to the fight would make a clash with AJ even more difficult for the Ukrainian to pass up.

In fact, Usyk told Sky Sports earlier this year that he wanted to fight Joshua in the British champion's backyard at London's Wembley Stadium.

Joshua and Ruiz spoke about having a trilogy fight at some point, but given how AJ dominated their rematch, there's no urgency to make that fight happen anytime soon.

If there is indeed little chance of Joshua lining up an undisputed megafight vs. Wilder or Fury without any headaches, then Usyk just might get his wish.

And not too many boxing fans would be complaining about Joshua-Usyk at Wembley as AJ's first fight of 2020, either.

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