Eddie Hearn names heavyweights in the frame for Anthony Joshua’s next assignment – Ring News 24 | Boxing News

Anthony Joshua. Photo credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Promoter Eddie Hearn is bullish about the future of his star heavyweight Anthony Joshua 27-3 (24) following the former two-time unified champion’s fifth-round knockout win over Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin 26-2 (14) at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 23.

In his first fight under trainer Ben Davison the 34-year-old Brit was back to his aggressive best, putting the pain on Wallin early and never letting him off the hook.

It was arguably Joshua’s most impressive performance in the four-and-a-half years since his first loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.

Joshua was tabbed to fight former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder 43-3-1 (42) in March, but the 38-year-old American lost on the undercard of Joshua’s fight to former WBO champion Joseph Parker 34-3 (23), effectively relegating that matchup to the scrap heap.

But with the win over perennial contender Wallin, Hearn says there are no shortage of options for his fighter.

Some of the names being bandied about are obvious; others are a little more left field. Top of the list remains the winner of the undisputed heavyweight world title clash between WBA, WBO and IBF champion Oleksandr Usyk 21-0 (14) and WBC counterpart Tyson Fury 34-0-1 (24) scheduled to take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on February 17.

Another opponent being considered is undefeated Croatian Filip ‘El Animal’ Hrgovic 17-0 (14), who blew out overmatched Mark De Mori 41-3-2 (36) in one round on the same ‘Day of Reckoning’ card two days before Christmas.

Giant Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang 26-1-1 (21) is another viable opponent and is in red-hot form following a pair of knockout victories over British contender Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce 15-2 (14) last year. The lone blemish on the 40-year-old Zhang’s resume is a disputed points loss to Hrgovic.

The dark horse on the shortlist is former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou 0-1 who, despite being a rank novice at boxing, almost caused the upset of the year when he came within a whisker of defeating Fury in their 10-round non-title bout in Saudi Arabia in October.

In that fight Ngannou had Fury on the canvas in the third round courtesy of a big left hook and boxed well enough throughout the contest to only lose by close split decision.

Hearn sees all these opponents as viable options for Joshua.

“Right now we have three fights that we’re in discussions for, they’re all big. And that doesn’t involve Deontay Wilder,” the Matchroom Boxing boss said to iFL TV. “

“Before March, our aim, and we’ve discussed this, is to fight the winner of Fury versus Usyk. That is all we want to do. Obviously, there’s a Hrgovic fight out there for the [possibly soon to be vacant IBF] world heavyweight title; there’s a Francis Ngannou fight out there, which would be absolutely colossal. There are other heavyweights as well; the Zhang fight possibly as well with Queensbury.”