Joshua v Takam: What's next for victorious AJ?
Anthony Joshua may not have dispatched Carlos Takam as quickly as many would have expected in Cardiff, but a blockbusting 2018 nevertheless awaits the WBA and IBF heavyweight champion.
Six months on from his enthralling victory over Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley, Joshua was the star turn at another sold-out stadium event.
Takam's limited profile or appeal as an opponent did nothing to dampen the fervour for British sport's newest hero at the Principality Stadium and, if Joshua is able to extend a perfect professional record of 20 wins and 20 knockouts against some of the names below, his superstar status will continue to skyrocket.
Undefeated American Wilder is expected to get through a rematch next weekend against Bermane Stiverne, who he took the WBC belt from in January 2015. Should he prevail, a match-up between Joshua and the Alabama motormouth is quite simply the most lucrative immediate option in boxing's blue riband division. Wilder boasts 38 wins and 37 knockouts - Stiverne is the one previous opponent to hear the final bell - in an unblemished professional career, although the calibre of his opposition has justifiably come under scrutiny. Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn has openly pitched a fight between Wilder and Dillian Whyte for February next year, with the winner getting the ultimate prize of a shot at Joshua, a proposal the 'Bronze Bomber' revealed he had warmed to this week. Meanwhile, Joshua told the official programme for his fight with Takam that the prospect of facing Wilder at Wembley was "amazing" but not necessarily one to be rushed.
On the face of things, a unification with WBO champion Parker should be a more straightforward match to make for Joshua and his team. A factor in this is the New Zealander's torpid points win over Hughie Fury last time out. Although he remains an unbeaten champion, his stock has fallen and he brings little of Wilder's clout and star quality to the table. Nevertheless, he remains an undefeated world champion and recent form suggests Parker represents a simple enough path towards Joshua holding three of the four major heavyweight belts.
Sold-out Wembley shows as British summer nights extend and outings in Cardiff under the Principality Stadium roof later in the year represent a viable and gargantuan career plan for Joshua at this point. However, Hearn has stated "America is next on the agenda" and Miller represents a viable proposition for a Las Vegas debut outside of the major beltholders. 'Big Baby' is, in reality, an undefeated and huge American man, with a background in kickboxing. Far from a shy self-promoter, the 29-year-old scaled in excess of 21 stone for his eight-round win over Gerald Washington in July and he has the chance to impress on Hearn's maiden Matchroom show in the USA when he faces former world-title challenger Mariusz Wach in Long Island next month.
Until Klitschko sent Joshua to the canvas in round six of their instant classic, Whyte was the only fighter who had seriously inconvenienced the 2012 Olympic gold medallist during his time as a professional. In their December 2015 grudge match, Whyte came through a first-round shellacking to stun Joshua with a withering left hook in the second. Joshua survived the crisis to put rounds in the bank before separating Whyte from his senses with a booming, brutal uppercut. A simmering tension remains between the two amateur rivals - Whyte beat a novice Joshua in the unpaid ranks - and the 'Body Snatcher' chalked up a sixth consecutive win against former European champion Robert Helenius on the Cardiff undercard. Throw in a shoulder injury suffered by Whyte during the last meeting with Joshua and there is enough intrigue to make a rematch big business.
It will be two years next month since Fury baffled Klitschko and stunned the boxing world by becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion in Dusseldorf. The 29-year-old's subsequent public fall from grace, which has seen him grapple with mental health and substance abuse issues, has proved a sad and unedifying spectacle. Hastily announced retirements and swift retractions have also been a regular feature but, as things stand, Fury intends to return to the ring in 2018. If he can get back into prime shape, rediscover his old swagger and string together a couple of convincing wins there is, quite simply, no bigger fight out there for Joshua than this all-British superfight. "Fury, where you at, baby?" a delirious Joshua hollered after his own win over Klitschko, one that was considerably harder work than Fury's. He knows this fight above all others would be the one to define a career with presently limitless horizons.