Anthony Joshua could head straight into a showdown with Deontay Wilder if he fails to return to the ring in early 2023, says promoter Eddie Hearn.
The Brit has been forced to plot a route back to the top of the heavyweight division after he was beaten by Oleksandr Usyk for a second time back in August.
After losing his unified titles to Usyk last year, Joshua came up short in his attempt to reclaim them when they met again in Saudi Arabia, despite a much-improved display the second time around.
Many questioned whether he would retire on the back of two devastating defeats, yet AJ has no plans to throw in the towel and is instead on a redemption mission.
He was first thrown an unlikely bone by Tyson Fury in September, only for negotiations with the Gypsy King’s team to eventually hit a snag, and now talk has turned to a potential meeting with Wilder in 2023.
In an interview with DAZN, Hearn even claimed that Joshua could go straight into that mega-fight if he doesn’t take a tune-up bout early next year, as the American’s promoters have now entered talks over a potential deal.
Hearn said on Tuesday: ‘I actually sent Shelly Finkel [Wilder’s promoter] an email back in August to talk about a deal and he actually replied to me yesterday.
‘I invited them out here to Abu Dhabi this week, they can’t come, but I see the Deontay Wilder fight probably being the second fight for Anthony Joshua in all honesty, but he’s up for fighting anyone.
‘If he waits, he may go straight into that fight, it all depends on when he returns, if he returns early in the year, he’ll fight someone else first and if not he’ll go straight into the [Dillian] Whyte or Wilder fight.’
Joshua and Wilder have been on a collision course for some time, with talks between their respective teams breaking down when they both held world titles in 2018.