Sunday Convo: Anthony Joshua is stuck between a rock and a hard place

This past week, there was a media roundtable that ProBoxTV attended, which former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (25-3, 22 KOs) hosted ahead of his now-canceled rematch with Dillian Whyte (29-3, 19 KOs). After his back-to-back losses to unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs), Joshua was less receptive to these types of media calls as most of the conversation was about the losses and his future plans.

Since then, Joshua hired the 2022 Trainer of the Year, Derrick James, and looked impressive in his first fight with James in April. During last week’s media call, Joshua was relaxed and playful at times with his answers and looked like the fighter that fans fell in love with when he beat the great Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs). It all spelled trouble for Whyte as Joshua seemed tense going into his previous fights, and if that phase is gone while being with James, then that would lead to a more focused Joshua who would’ve probably knocked out White. On Saturday morning, things took a turn, and VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) informed Matchroom that Whyte had “returned adverse analytical findings as part of a random anti-doping protocol.” This is the third time for Whyte in his career, so the fight was canceled.

It's a hard position to be in if you are Joshua, as he was about to glove up for the second time this year, which he hadn’t done since 2019. During that media roundtable, I had brought this up, and it was a bit of a surprise for the 33-year-old Joshua. “Since 2019, this is the first time I have had consecutive fights? Crazy! That’s not good for any fighter. Inactivity is not good. My last fight against Jermaine Frankin wasn’t a spectacular performance, but at least I’m starting to get active again. Active fighters are only fighting once a year. I don’t know what it is. The networks might be paying too much. I don’t know what it is, but I just need to get busy again,” said Joshua.

Matchroom is currently scrambling to salvage the date for their fighter, as there are four heavyweights on the undercard to choose from (Derrick Chisora, Gerald Washington, Filip Hrgovic and Demsey McKean). Two other heavyweights have used social media to be considered as late replacements: Hasim Rahman Jr. and Andy Ruiz Jr. Time will tell if any of these fighters get the call for a fight on Saturday night or if the event is ultimately canceled.

Joshua must weigh his options as a late replacement always comes with a certain level of risk, which he learned a hard lesson from in the past when he was stopped by Ruiz Jr. in 2019. Speaking to Joshua last week, he wants to fight again this year, and if they can’t make it happen, then a fourth-quarter fight is more likely, which means any discussion about a potential Deontay Wilder fight now moves to spring 2024 at the earliest. What will Joshua and his team do? We should have a final answer by tomorrow on whether a suitable replacement was found or if we must wait another few months for Joshua’s second fight this year.