BBN take a look at the shortlist in the running to become the next challenger to Anthony Joshua’s IBF, WBA ‘Super’ and WBO world heavyweight titles.
Promoter Eddie Hearn said he wants someone who is in training already, someone who believes they can win, that will try and win and entertain, and that there's up to five names in the running.
Andy Ruiz Jr
Record: 32-1, 21 KOs
Career Highlights: He is a world title contender already, which is when he took WBO world heavyweight champion Joseph Parker to a mixed decision in 2016, but was on the wrong end of the 115-113; 115-113; 114-114 scores. He started brightly as the aggressor, despite being in the away corner all the way over in Auckland, New Zealand, but took his foot of the gas during the mid-rounds, and taking control again in the championship rounds was too late to nick the vacant belt that Tyson Fury had just vacated and Ruiz failed to become the first boxer of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight world title. The Compubox stats that showed the home fighter Parker outlanded the visitor by 119-107 punches shows just how close the Destroyer came.
Rankings: WBA #11; IBF #15
Odds: 6/4 888Sport
Verdict: Ruiz Jr seems to be topping most lists at the moment, but his association with PBC could prove difficult to negotiate a fight at short notice. It also might not be sensible having only fought this month [April 20] when he destroyed Alexander Dimitrenko in five rounds. Just one month to prepare for the biggest fight of his career could be foolish. Eddie Hearn has also said he wants someone who is in training already, not just started, which kind of rules him out, yet Ruiz is the first name on he promoter's lips nearly every time he is asked the question.
Alias: The Bounty
Record: 16-1, 11 KOs
Career Highlights: He went the distance with history-making crusierweight king Oleksandr Usyk for the WBO title, which is a feat all on it's own. However, since moving up to heavyweight, he has scored late stoppage wins against Martin Bakole in London [TKO 10] and Alexander Ustinov [TKO 9] in Monte Carlo - he wasn't tipped to win either bouts from the away corner. His last fight saw him capture the WBA International heavyweight title which has pushed his name up the World Boxing Association standings to #12.
Rankings: WBA #12; IBF #10
Odds: 1/2 888Sport
Verdict: He is a valid contender who would relish the opportunity and give his all in preparation and on fight night. His low ranking and short experience as a heavyweight - just four fights - makes it difficult to justify the fight being big enough for the public to buy, however. Although Eddie Hearn said he was extremely skilled and very difficult to beat, and added he could be a massive banana skin, so he is right up there as a favourite to step in.
Alias: King Kong
Record: 31-1, 26 KOs
Career Highlights: After knocking out contenders Bryant Jennings and Tony Thompson, Ortiz got his long-awaited shot at Deontay Wilder’s WBC crown and managed to really seize his moment by taking control of the first few rounds of their fight. But in round five, the man with ‘Get Out of Jail’ power decked the Cuban, who rose to his feet and was saved by the bell. It set up an exciting sixth round, but the crowd exploded in the seventh stanza when the challenger caught the champion with a counter right hook that shook his legs for the first time in his career. It was then ‘The Bronze Bomber’s’ turn to be saved by the bell, who just about held on the see the eighth. Despite some underhand delaying tactics by Wilder’s corner at the start of the eighth, the following rounds swung back and forth until Wilder lived up his name by swinging windmills in the 10th round to knock Ortiz down twice before the ref called a halt to the contest. Despite experiencing his first career defeat, Ortiz took Wilder to places no one else had ever managed to and displayed the WBC king’s weaknesses for all the preying contenders to see.
Rankings: WBC #3; IBF #8
Odds: 4/1 888Sport
Verdict: After seemingly talking themselves out of the fight with what Eddie Hearn alluded to as incredulous financial demands, Luis Ortiz has since revealed that he is annoyed with his team and the way the negotiations have been handled, stating that when an opportunity like this comes along you take it. So the Cuban is firmly back in the runnings to become AJ's next opponent and will make for a great fight should it happen.
Manuel Charr, age 34 (31-4, 17 KOs)
Alias: Diamond Boy
Record: 31-4, 17 KOs
Career Highlights: Remarkably, Charr is still the WBA 'Regular' world champion, even after a year-and-a-half of inactivity. His round eight knockdown and subsequent unanimous decision win over Alexander Ustinov to win the WBA world title back in November 2017 - his last fight - was the highlight of his career.
Rankings: WBA 'Regular' world champion
Odds: 10/1 888Sport
Verdict: Charr would be the worst candidate as a challenger, being quite unknown to US fans, but mostly due to his dormancy. He doesn't deserve the shot and his extended hiatus from the squared circle, coupled with his three KO's from four defeats - Klitschko [TKO 4]; Alexander Povetkin [KO7]; Mairis Briedis [TKO 5] - would make him cannon fodder for AJ.
Record: 20-0, 14 KOs
Career Highlights: Bryan's fourth-round knockout over BJ Flores to capture the WBA interim world heavyweight championship was the highlight of his career to date. However, it was only El Peligroso's third fight as a heavyweight and has been knocked out further down at cruiserweight before - by Tony Bellew.
Rankings: WBA interim world heavyweight champion
Odds: 8/1 888Sport
Verdict: As an unbeaten champion holding a version of a world title, with a high KO ratio, decent win in his previous bout; it would make a fight with Joshua sell well. Flores was an outstanding amateur champion in the States and won numerous national titles as a pro, but has never been a force at world level.
Record: 19-0, 15 KOs
Career Highlights: His resume is actually very impressive for just a 19-bouter. Knockout wins over world title contenders Gerald Washington [TKO 2] - three rounds faster than Wilder managed - and Artur Szpilka [TKO 4] - five rounds quicker than Wilder - makes the Polish puncher a risky opponent for anyone. However, his close fight with former IBF titleholder Charles Martin got many questioning his ability at the elite level. He edged the former world champ 96-94 on points and gave fans on that summer night in 2018 a round of the year contender as they traded to head and body in the 10th and final round.
Rankings: WBC #5; WBA #13; IBF #4
Odds: 25/1 888Sport
Verdict: Kownacki is a very credible opponent with youth, momentum, high-ranking status, and the confidence that comes with being undefeated still. He is head and shoulders BBN's favourite contender to face Joshua, but Hearn hasn't mentioned his name as someone in the runnings, meaning that the likelihood he will be named is slimmer by the day.
Record: 19-0, 13 KOs
Career Highlights: Winning the European heavyweight title in 2017 over Herve Hubeaux and defending the strap successfully three times - Dereck Chisora [MD 12]; Miljan Rovcanin [TKO 3]; Andriy Rudenko [UD 12].
Rankings: WBC #9; IBF #3; WBO #9
Odds: 50/1 888Sport
Verdict: As an established force at European level, the natural progression would be to move up to world level. However, his chances of winning would be very slim as he doesn't really have many notable names on his ledger and nothing to suggest that he could really give Joshua a competitive fight. His top-10 ranking with three world governing bodies makes him a legitimate contender, however.
An online poll for fans to vote who they would like to see fight Joshua saw these results:
54% Michael Hunter Jr
39% Andy Ruiz Jr
4% Manuel Charr
4% Trevor Bryan