Anthony Joshua backtracks on plan as Eddie Hearn teases next fight

Anthony Joshua has declared his next fight could yet take place in July or August – providing he has the approval of his new trainer Derrick James – as Eddie Hearn looks set to begin formal talks over a rematch with Dillian Whyte. It comes just a few weeks after AJ surprised boxing fans by declaring he would not be back in action until December after beating American Jermaine Franklin on points at the O2 Arena on April 1.

Nonetheless, it appears Joshua is now prepared to backtrack on the statement as Eddie Hearn continues to hold discussions with Deontay Wilder’s promotional team over a blockbuster December showdown in Saudi Arabia.

Two two-time heavyweight world champion told Sky Sports: “I’m a thinker… maybe an over-thinker.

“I thought as I’ve changed maybe three coaches in three years, it would be good to develop and work under the guidance of my new coach and by the time I’m back in the ring, I’ve cemented and implemented everything he wants.

“But, the only way we’re going to put everything he’s teaching me to the test is through fighting, but rather than putting pressure on myself, I just wanted to draw a line in the sand and say I’m not fighting until this date.

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“If I, my coach, decide to change my mind… I feel I’m able to change my mind right? So I’m able to fight in July or August if I want but right now it’s off the table, but we are subject to change providing my coach is happy with what he sees.”

Joshua is evidently keen to ensure he remains active following two frustrating years that saw him suffer consecutive defeats to unified world champion Oleksandr Usyk.

Joshua had previously declared his interest in an all-British showdown with Joe Joyce while other options such as Joseph Parker, Otto Wallin and Zhilei Zhang looked to have been on the table.

As ever in boxing, things change quickly however and now Zhang is largely expected to rematch Joyce after stopping The Juggernaut in a monumental upset at the Copper Box Arena earlier this month.

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A rematch with long-term rival Whyte also remains a strong probability and Matchroom chief Hearn recently declared he hopes to make the mouthwatering matchup between his two fighters later this summer.

“It’s very likely that we’ll make Dillian an offer to fight AJ in July,” Hearn told iFL TV.

“That’s the fight that would make sense [for Joshua]. We would go to a stadium. You have the UFC that just pulled out of July 22nd.

“We go 29th, August 26th, or something like that. We may go the first week of August but again, until we have these meetings next week, I just can’t give you the answers on that. I think we’re going to London.”

Elsewhere, Tyson Fury is expected to return to the ring in July with Andy Ruiz Jr and Big Bang Zhang two of the names within his crosshairs.

Usyk is also set to face Daniel Dubois this summer after the world title defence was ordered by the WBO.

The two heavyweight champions, Fury and Usyk, had looked on course to collide in Saudi Arabia this summer for all the marbles before fight negotiations collapsed in the final stages.

Usyk’s team walked away from talks over what they conisdered to be unreasonable demands regarding the potential split of a rematch.

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