RSR: Checking In On Anthony Joshua and the Heavyweights



RSR: Checking In On Anthony Joshua and the Heavyweights

Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte are in the news, not in a good way. It’s a good time to appraise what’s happening with the heavyweight division’s elite boxers, for the Random Sunday Read.

I was running through some options for this week’s column in my mind, and I settled on looking at some upcoming heavyweight attractions that could get things moving at the top end of boxing’s glamour division.

Is the handbrake about to be released in a year that has seen the division stagnate rather than flourish?

Anthony Joshua v Dillion Whyte 2 is off


While heavyweight as a whole has frustrated fans in this great year of boxing so far, some of the elite names are exempt from criticism as they are working and trying to stay as active as possible.

With bouts featuring several of the top ten heavyweights slated to take place over the next eight weeks or so, this feels as good a time as any for a quick review of the landscape.

It Was Seven Days Away, But Now It’s Canned

Even carefully laid column writing plans get disrupted by the wild goings on in our sport.

The leadoff slot was going to feature the August 12 rematch between Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte in London.

Yes, a pointless rematch in the eyes of many, despite the desperate “last chance at making a title run for both men,” cries from promoter Eddie Hearn.

We won’t find out if Dillian Whyte had the capabilities to avenge a December 2015 defeat at the hands of Anthony Joshua as an old habit of his has caught up to him again.

Dillian Whyte social media post regarding his adverse PED test prior to Anthony Joshua rematch

Dillian Whyte post on social media following news that he’d been flagged during pre-fight testing

Just 24 hours before these words hit the page, we learned of a doping transgression from the aforementioned Mr. Whyte.

“Today, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) informed Matchroom, the Association of Boxing Commissions and the British Boxing Board of Control that Dillian Whyte had returned adverse analytical findings as part of a random anti-doping protocol.

“In light of this news, the fight [Anthony Joshua vs. Whyte] will be cancelled,” a release from Matchroom boxing informed.

I make that the third time Whyte has tested positive for a banned substance in his career.

It leaves organisers with a headache.

With only seven days notice, six now, can a suitable opponent for Anthony Joshua be found? Or will the entire card be folded and refunds issued to ticket buyers?

With heavyweights Derek Chisora, Gerald Washington, Filip Hrgovic and Demsey McKean already on the August 12 London card, the thinking is one of them will be offered the opportunity to join the main event and face Joshua.

I’d like to see Martin Bakole at least offered the bout. Would the 19-1 Democratic Republic of the Congo born and Scottish based contender be seen as too risky an opponent?

If Anthony Joshua does end up boxing, it will be his second outing of 2023.

Anthony Joshua


His last one was in April, a largely lacklustre win over Jermaine Franklin which suggested that he will struggle to regain his status as a title holder in the division.

The Whyte rematch wasn’t setting pulses racing, but apparently the O2 Arena was sold out for it.

Let’s hope a suitable opponent can be found and the event remains on. The clock is ticking though…..

The Return Of The Unified King

Next up in this period of heavyweight revival is unified champion Oleksandr Usyk.

Usyk faces off against Daniel Dubois of England on August 26 in Wroclaw, Poland.

It will have been one year and six days since Usyk was last in a boxing ring. The Ukrainian great retained his crowns by defeating Anthony Joshua via split decision in Saudi Arabia on August 20, 2022.

Much of this year has been wasted with negotiations between Usyk and Tyson Fury over staging an undisputed fight. An agreement couldn’t be reached so Usyk is facing one of his mandatory challengers.

Daniel Dubois holds a secondary title with the WBA so is therefore seizing the opportunity he has earned. He goes in as a massive underdog against Usyk.

Dubois will also be making his 2023 ring bow. His previous appearance was in December last year.

Usyk will fight Dubois next

Dubois is a considerable underdog versus Usyk

The Englishman has only a puncher's chance in this bout. Not many will be picking him to defeat the imperious looking Usyk at the end of the month.

Nevertheless, Usky vs. Dubois is a fight I am interested to see – if only to enjoy the skills of Usyk and listen to commentators and pundits discuss the ins and outs of the Usyk-Fury negotiations for the entire broadcast.

A Rematch That Offers Intrigue (Not Anthony Joshua v Whyte)

Unlike Anthony Joshua and Whyte waiting until they are both washed to announce a rematch, the third and final heavyweight encounter on today’s list is the immediate rematch between Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce.

Both rated within the heavyweight top ten by The Ring, Zhang and Joyce will renew hostilities at Wembley Arena, London on September 23.

These are two heavyweights who are exempt from any inactivity criticism. Zhang scored an upset TKO win over Joyce in April at the Copper Box Arena, London.

The New Jersey based Chinese puncher shocked many by dominating and stopping the previously undefeated juggernaut in his tracks via TKO.

Can he repeat the feat, or will Joyce have learned enough from the first encounter to make the necessary adjustments?

Trainer Shaun George lifts Zhang Zhilei aloft after he beat Joe Joyce

Trainer Shaun George lifts Zhang Zhilei aloft after he beat Joe Joyce.

It’s an interesting fight and both men deserve praise for getting on with it after any other appealing options for them – especially Zhang as the winner – failed to materialise; a consequence of the division waiting to see what would transpire between Fury and Usyk.

Any News On Other Top Ten HWs?

With Anthony Joshua and seven of top ten heavyweights in The Ring rankings already mentioned, what are the other three doing?

Deontay Wilder last boxed in October 2022 and doesn’t, at time of writing, have a fight planned for this year. There are rumours that he will fight Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia in December, but nothing concrete on that front has been announced.

Andy Ruiz Jr. was last seen in September 2022. There is nothing planned for him either for this year although he did put out a social media post offering to step in with Joshua on Saturday.

The one remaining man on the list is the leader in terms of 2023 activity. That man is Joseph Parker.

Parker bounced back from his September 2022 defeat to Joe Joyce by gloving up in January and May of this year. He is rebuilding and faced two opponents he was expected to outclass, which he did.

Although fans may be wary of seeing Parker facing any top ten quality heavyweights – something he has done three times previously and failed at – he may well earn the right to do just that based on sheer activity alone.

Tyson Fury chose to do a fight vs MMAer Francis Ngannou, 0-0 as a boxer, rather than Usyk. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Wrapping It Up

In what has been a disappointing year for boxing’s headline grabbing division, it feels like the wheels are starting to turn very slowly and the coming eight weeks will at least see things slip out of neutral and possibly into first or second gear.

As the sport has flourished this year with quality matchups taking place in the lower weight classes, it’s time for the heavyweights to follow suit.

Stop marinating and bickering over silly sub-sections of contracts.

Follow the example of your colleagues Joseph Parker, Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce – get busy and have some fights!

The fights are out there, the fighters have just got to make them happen. Dillian Whyte is out of the picture for now – that’s no great loss. For everyone else, it’s time to step on the gas.

A boxing fan since his teenage years, Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He appreciates all styles of boxing and has nothing but respect for those who get in the ring for our entertainment. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.