Anthony Joshua enjoyed a night to remember at London's O2 Arena on Saturday 9 April, making a mockery of Charles Martin's status as a champion to collect the IBF strap in just his 16th professional fight. A straightforward and powerful second-round knockout in front of a deafening sold-out crowd saw the affable 2012 Olympic gold medallist become the fifth-fastest heavyweight in history to win a world title.
In addition to boosting his global profile and solidifying his reputation as the most exciting prospect in the division, such a victory also opened the door to a number of lucrative future contests against the likes of David Haye and Deontay Wilder. Talk of a massive domestic clash with WBA, WBO and IBO champion Tyson Fury has also gathered pace in recent days as the two continue their public war of words that was exacerbated by Matchroom director Eddie Hearn, who stated that Joshua could return to action at Wembley Stadium on 9 July – the same night Fury is due to defend his belts in a Manchester rematch with Wladimir Klitschko.
While it seems likely that date will change, what does look certain is that the 26-year-old will provide the first voluntary defence of his title this summer. So who could be his next opponent? IBTimes UK takes a look at the early runners and riders...
The first name on the list is Scott, who last fought in October 2015 with a unanimous decision victory against Tony Thompson in Orlando, Florida. After Joshua's comprehensive win, the 35-year-old American immediately took to Twitter to offer his congratulations, before revealing that he had already signed a contract and sent it back ahead of a potential summer challenge.
Addressing those claims, Hearn told Boxing Monthly: "We were going to fight Malik Scott. He signed a contract, but we didn't sign a contract. He could be a guy for us. He's a good talker. Tricky customer, skilful. I know he had the controversial loss to Dereck Chisora where he didn't beat the count. He was disappointing against Deontay Wilder."
Another name dropped by Hearn is Bryant Jennings. The Philadelphia native, a former USBA heavyweight champion, challenged Wladimir Klitschko for his WBA, IBF, IBO and WBO belts at Madison Square Garden in April 2015, making life uncomfortable for his dominant opponent but failing to end his unbeaten reign, losing on points 118-109, 116-111 and 116-111.
He was handed a second chance to stake a real claim in the division eight months later, but failed to claim the WBA interim title that Cuba's Luis "The Real King Kong" Ortiz had won for a second time by blitzing Matias Ariel Vidondo. Victory would have put him on course for an eventual bout with Fury or a rematch with Klitschko, but he suffered two knockdowns en route to a seventh-round defeat.
Stiverne has pedigree as a one-time heavyweight title-holder and could represent an ideal next challenge for Joshua. The 37-year-old Haitian-born Canadian, promoted by the infamous Don King, snatched the WBC belt vacated by Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko in 2013 with a second consecutive win over former eliminator opponent Chris Arreola.
Much like Martin, however, he was unable to provide a single successful defence as he was comprehensively outpointed by "Bronze Bomber" Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas last January. He was hospitalised after that defeat due to severe hydration and muscle damage and has only fought once since, bouncing back from a shock early knockdown to beat Derric Rossy over 10 rounds in November.
Joseph Parker/Carlos Takam
It is worth remembering when discussing future opponents for Joshua that highly rated New Zealand prospect Parker is due to meet Takam soon in an eliminator to discover the IBF's new mandatory heavyweight challenger. That fight is due to take place at the Vodafone Events Centre in Auckland on 21 May, which could render it too close for the winner to then go on and mount their title challenge in July.
What seems more likely is that Joshua will face the likes of Scott, Jennings or Stiverne first, before meeting Parker later in the year as David Haye follows up his mismatch against unbeaten Arnold Gjergjaj by facing the tiresome Shannon Briggs. Parker's promoter, David Higgins, recently described the newly-crowned IBF king as "lumbering".
Dereck Chisora could be another possible option, depending on the outcome and speed of recovery following his European title bout with Kubrat Pulev next month. Ortiz is unavailable as he prepares to face Alexander Ustinov in late June, while Johann Duhaupas, Andy Ruiz Jr and Dominic Breazeale are among several other names mooted. Wilder is due to defend his title against Alexander Povetkin in May.