Matchroom Sport has confirmed speculation that Anthony Joshua will return to action on Saturday 25 June. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist claimed the IBF world heavyweight title in just his 16th professional fight earlier this month with a typically powerful second-round knock-out of American southpaw Charles Martin and will return to his spiritual home at London's O2 Arena to provide his first defence of that belt.
The official announcement ends any talk of Joshua's next fight taking place on 9 July, which would have clashed with WBA, WBO and IBO champion Tyson Fury's rematch with Wladimir Klitschko. Promoter Eddie Hearn had previously claimed that broadcasters Sky rejected the chance to screen that bout in Manchester in order to focus on a man widely touted as the future of British heavyweight boxing.
"Anthony Joshua MBE will defend his IBF world heavyweight title at The O2 on June 25," read the latest statement from Matchroom. "Joshua landed the belt at the Greenwich venue in style last month, dispatching Charles Martin inside two rounds. The Watford man returns to the scene of that win for his first defence, with further information on his opponent and ticket sale dates to be released next week."
Taking to Twitter to announce the date, Joshua said: "I've been speaking to my coach and I wanted the closest fight possible because I'm feeling good. I can't wait to get back in training camp and pick up where we left off. So the date to put in your diary is June 25th, back at the O2 Arena for my first title defence and a jam-packed undercard. I can't wait to be back and I'm looking forward to performing for you once again."
Although his opponent is yet to be formally announced, it is widely expected that it will be an American in order to increase Joshua's exposure to a US audience. Malik Scott was initially believed to be among the frontrunners, having previously signed a contract to face the 26-year-old, but Hearn revealed earlier this week that former WBC title-holder Bermane Stiverne is in the race for the fight, along with compatriots Eric "Drummer Boy" Molina and Dominic Breazeale.
The only other Americans in the IBF's latest rankings of the top 15 heavyweights, a rather underwhelming list from which a challenger must be drawn, are Martin and former kickboxer Jarrell Miller. Stiverne has fallen out of that conversation and will now be ruled out as a possible contender. Scott is also absent.
Should England top their Group at Euro 2016 ahead of Russia, Wales and Slovakia, then the fight could act as a follow-up to their round of 16 tie in Paris. That match would kick-off at 17.00 BST, while Joshua typically ring walks at approximately 22.30.