ANTHONY JOSHUA will return to the ring in December whether or not he beats Oleksandr Usyk, promoter Eddie Hearn has confirmed.
AJ, 32, will attempt to avenge his loss to the unbeaten Ukrainian when he fights for the IBF, WBA and WBC world heavyweight titles in Saudi Arabia on August 20.
The rematch with Usyk comes 11 months after their first bout at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last year.
Joshua has fought just twice since he reclaimed his belts against Andy Ruiz Jr in the Middle East in December 2019.
And Hearn has admitted the lack of ring time has been a frustration for AJ, but that he will definitely fight twice this year.
Speaking to iFL TV, he said: "The one thing he [Joshua] wants more than anything is activity and December will definitely be his next fight."
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Many big fights remain out there for Joshua regardless of whether he beats Usyk next month – including Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and a rematch against Dillian Whyte.
But AJ's sparring partner Frazer Clarke – who won a bronze medal at last year's Olympic Games in Tokyo – feels the two-time world heavyweight champion can get the better of Usyk.
He told the Telegraph: "All focus has been on Usyk, and on outhustling him with educated pressure.
"Although this is an awkward fight against a very skilled heavyweight, just like Tyson Fury is, AJ has his mind on the game for this."
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Clarke also stressed that Joshua is not looking past Usyk towards an all-British dust-up against WBC champion Fury.
"Listen, the words Tyson Fury haven't even been muttered in our gym because we know that the job at hand is a difficult one," he added.
"There’s no two ways about it, Usyk is one of the more skilful heavyweight champions we've had in recent years.
"On a skill level, Usyk and Fury are at the top of the tree, even if you go back in history.
"Just going in there and mauling him like people are suggesting, it’s never going to happen. Nor will trying to outbox him."
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