Anthony Joshua will fight Otto Wallin in Saudi Arabia on 23 December, on the same card as a bout between Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker.
The fights are just two of several heavyweight clashes that will take place in the same ring in Riyadh, with Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic among the other boxers in action that night, while light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol is also set to compete. The event was officially announced at a press conference in London on Wednesday (15 November).
Joshua, 34, and Wilder, 38, have long been linked to one another, and there will inevitably be frustration among fans that the Briton and American will share a ring on 23 December but without boxing each other.
Joshua will instead box Wallin, whose sole professional loss came against Tyson Fury in 2019. The Swede, 32, almost secured a victory that night after inflicting a severe cut over Fury’s right eye. Wallin has since won six fights in a row, and his professional record stands at 26-1 (14 knockouts).
Meanwhile, Wilder will fight Joseph Parker (33-3, 23 KOs), a teammate of Fury. The New Zealander is on a three-fight win streak, having bounced back well from a stoppage loss to Joe Joyce last year.
Joshua (26-3, 23 KOs) and Wilder (43-2-1, 32 KOs) both beat Robert Helenius last time out, with “AJ” stopping the Finn in Round 7 in August, after Wilder secured a first-round knockout in October 2022.
Joshua’s victory over Helenius was his second straight win after his back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk, who took the unified heavyweight titles from AJ in 2021 and retained the gold in their 2022 rematch. Meanwhile, Wilder’s win against Helenius saw him respond positively to back-to-back defeats by Tyson Fury, who won the WBC belt from Wilder in 2020 and retained it against the American in 2021. The pair previously fought to a controversial draw in 2018.
“People are talking like I've peaked when they've never even seen a peak in their career, so I don't know what they're talking about,” Joshua said, referring to comments made by Wallin, whom he beat twice in the amateurs and with whom he later sparred.
“I'm looking forward to relaying my message to Otto Wallin on 23 December. I can't predict the future, but I know where I wanna go, I know what I wanna do, and I'm sticking to my plan.
“I'm a man of my word, and I believe in being a three-time champion of the world. This is what I like about the division: There's a roadmap with checkpoints, and I can't wait to get to the final destination. I'm fully focused on this fight, I'm determined to win, and I'm determined to get back to my ‘peak'.”
Meanwhile, Wilder said: “Parker’s good at the end of the day, I think highly of him. He’s an amazing human being as a man, he’s a great fighter as well. It’s gonna be a remarkable feeling to finally share the ring with him.
“The blessing is I have the ability to knock a single man out with one punch. This is something that’s been with me all my life, it’s not something I’ve developed. The curse is that it’s allowed people to shy away from me, to be fearful. Sometimes that can be harmful to the business of boxing.“
When asked whether any other fighter on the stage had ever ‘shied away’ from fighting him, Wilder said: “I don’t really have to say much, y’all have heard me many times throughout the years. I don’t feel the need to call out any names. At this time, my mind is focused solely on Joseph Parker.
“It’s good to be in the same room [as Joshua], to see him face to face, it’s been a long time coming. I wish you nothing but the best, bro, and hopefully we can get in the ring some time soon.”
Elsewhere on the 23 December card, Dubois will box Jarrell Miller, while Hrgovic fights Mark De Mori. Bivol will defend his WBA light-heavyweight title against Lyndon Arthur, and also in that division, Jai Opetaia fights Ellis Zorro. Meanwhile, Frank Sanchez will go up against Junior Fa at heavyweight, where Arslanbek Makhmudov boxes Agit Kabayel.