Who could step up and fill in against Joshua?

This weekend saw the shocking revelation that Dillian Whyte had failed a VADA-administered drug test ahead of the anticipated rematch for UK fight fans between Whyte and two-time former unified heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua. 

Sources close to Matchroom Boxing have suggested that the main aim is to secure a replacement opponent for the August 12th event, which is to be held at London’s 02 Arena.

Many names are being speculated as to who could fill in and fill the shoes of Whyte. Here are five possible and realistic flights which could be made to allow Joshua to return to the ring on August 12th.

Filip Hrgovic

Filip Hrgovic (15-0) would be seen by many as the logical choice to step in and face Whyte. Like Joshua, Hrgovic is signed to Matchroom on a co-promotional basis, so there will be no promotional politics which should cause any hold-up regarding any talks between the parties to strike a deal between both parties. Hrgovic is also slated to feature on August 12th against fellow unbeaten heavyweight Dempsey McKean.

Hrgovic holds a high rating across most of the governing bodies and currently ranks number one within the IBF ratings at heavyweight. Hrgovic would fulfil a sense of legitimacy considering his position along with his extensive amateur background.

He could be viewed as possibly too much of a risk due to his aggressive nature in how he fights, especially if you consider what perhaps lies in wait for Joshua regarding possibly facing Deontay Wilder in late 2023/ early 2024. 

However, Hrgovic can be hurt, which was demonstrated by Zhileii Zhang last year with Hrgovic struggling and hurt on multiple occasions. Hrgovic was viewed to have been quite fortunate to claim victory over Zhang with Zhang since claiming an outstanding win over Joe Joyce earlier in 2023 following his defeat to Hrgovic. 

Derek Chisora

Derek Chisora (33-13) has already suggested that he would be willing to step in for Whyte and face Joshua. Chisora is undoubtedly a good name on paper if you look at his CV, with some solid and impressive wins. Sadly and rightfully, fights are not fought on paper but with 10oz gloves and inside a boxing ring.

Derek will always present a challenge to most heavyweights, and if you consider where Joshua is currently at confidence-wise, there are legitimate questions to answer regarding that point. Not just against a Chisora but against any fighter, really.

Again like Hrgovic, Chisora is set to fight on the card against American Gerald Washington, so they will (hopefully) be in a good physical state and, if recent years are anything to go by, come with an attitude to win and not just take the money and go home. 

However, the most prominent issue is how much Chisora realistically has left within him as he is genuinely in the twilight years of his career. Last time out in December, when he faced Tyson Fury, Derek did not offer much resistance against the WBC heavyweight champion in possibly one of the most straightforward victories in Fury’s career. 

Agit Kabayel

For a good number of years, Kabayel (23-0) has found himself in the upper echelons of various world governing bodies ratings alongside holding the European heavyweight title twice. 

The fighter of German-Turkish nationality is one of the more talented heavyweights to be based on the continent and has been used as a training partner by Joshua on multiple occasions. So it may be the case of ‘better the devil, you know.’ considering that they will have sparred tens upon tens of rounds together. 

Kabayel holds one major win on his record, a successful EBU heavyweight title defence against the previously mentioned Chisora. That win, however was almost six years ago in which he outboxed and fought Chisora in Monaco and claimed a majority decision win. Outside of Chisora, Kabayel’s CV is pretty average, which includes wins over Kevin Johnson and Andrii Rudenko. 

Kabayel has also indicated on social media that he would be more than willing to step in on August 12th; however his physical condition may prove a factor, as his last outing was in March earlier this year. 

Otto Wallin

Wallin of Sweden (25-1) is most known for his performance against Tyson Fury, where he famously gave Fury a cut on his cheek which required forty-seven stitches. 

Technically astute, aggressive with a positive attitude to win, he has already spoken about how he would accept the role and responsibility to save the date of August 12th when questioned about his availability by Boxing News. 

“I think I would, but they would have to pay me. I’m in good shape. I’m in training. I think it would be good. I’d be ready for it.”

Wallin has proven that he can mix with a top-level heavyweight alongside victories over Dominic Breazeale and Travis Kauffman alongside being unbeaten in five contests following his defeat to Fury in 2018. 

Demsey McKean

Demsey McKean, who is already set to face Filip Hrgovic on the card, is likely the man to fill in for Whyte. 

Unbeaten as a professional with 22 straight wins, ranked within the IBF and WBO world rankings and signed to the same promotional firm in Matchroom. 

Kabayel, a regular training partner for Joshua, has been used most prominently for Joshua’s back-to-back fights with Oleksandr Usyk. 

Man to man, Joshua would be seen as the far superior fighter compared to McKean, having fought at a much higher level than the Australian contender. 

McKean will be to the paying public an unknown entity regarding how good he could be with no prominent or major wins on his resume bar an impressive second-round knockout last time out against Patrick Korte in October last year.