ANTHONY JOSHUA could accept an interim bout next with his rematch against Oleksandr Usyk in doubt.
The pair are contracted to a second fight this year following Usyk’s 12-round upset at Tottenham last September.
But the unbeaten two-weight champion is currently defending Ukraine amid the invasion of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Promoter Eddie Hearn revealed finding a tune-up opponent for Joshua, 32, is not out of the question if Usyk, 34, is otherwise out of the picture.
So here SunSport runs down five candidates suitable for the job.
If AJ is to stay busy he will likely be scouting for a southpaw opponent to help him best prepare for Usyk.
Wallin’s profile is big enough to help Joshua sell tickets and pay-per-views – after he gave Tyson Fury 47 stitches in 2019.
He was deemed a low-enough risk for Dillian Whyte, 33, to face last October while the Brit already had a guaranteed shot at Fury, 33.
And although it fell through, Joshua has formerly sparred and boxed lefty Wallin in the amateurs, giving him enough knowledge of the Swede.
The Cuban was once the most feared southpaw in the division, but two losses to Deontay Wilder appear to have taken its toll.
Ortiz, now 42, most recently beat Charles Martin, 35, in January but had to pick himself off the canvas to do so.
He still has massive name value and has an equally tricky style to Usyk.
Joshua came close to fighting Ortiz in 2019 but the contender instead opted to chase a rematch with Wilder.
At 6ft 6in, the Chinese heavyweight does not cut the same frame as Usyk but is at least a southpaw.
He is also signed to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing stable, making negotiations easier.
Not only that, Joshua has history with Zhang dating back to their amateur days, winning in the quarter-finals of the 2012 London Olympics.
Zhang, 38, is unbeaten as a professional but in February 2021 drew to Jerry Forrest, giving AJ the confidence the task would not be too risky.
The aforementioned American is the most under the radar of the lot but would certainly offer Joshua some valuable southpaw rounds.
Forrest, 33, has lost to contenders such as Jermaine Franklin, 28, and Carlos Takam, 41, in recent years.
But his two most recent fights were draws, against Zhang and then the highly-touted Michael Hunter, 33.
Joshua could expect a tough enough runout against Forrest, who has only ever been stopped once.
The Bronze Bomber is quite possibly the only big fight Joshua and Hearn would consider taking before a rematch with Usyk.
Their history, opposing styles and recent losses makes the clash a box office blockbuster and arguably as big as anything involving Usyk.
The ex-WBC champ at 36 is yet to confirm whether he will retire or not but it appears clear if he returns it will only be for big fights.
AJ and Wilder could sellout just about any stadium or arena worldwide and would be the biggest fight for either of them to take at this point.