Anthony Joshua is slated to return to the ring on Aug. 12 at The O2 in London, and his opponent should be confirmed in the next 48 hours, sources told ESPN on Sunday.
The former heavyweight champion has been in discussions with Dillian Whyte for a rematch of their December 2015 bout that Joshua won via seventh-round TKO -- talks that began on June 2, per sources.
Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing, imposed on Friday afternoon a deadline of later that same evening to have a signed contract returned from Whyte, per sources. In the meantime, sources said, an alternative undisclosed opponent agreed in writing to a deal to fight Joshua on Aug. 12.
A spokesperson for Whyte told ESPN that "Dillian returned the signed agreement on Sunday morning ET and that he is unaware of any other party being in the frame for the fight. He is looking forward to fighting Anthony Joshua for a second time on Aug. 12 at The O2."
Now, Joshua, his team, Matchroom and broadcaster DAZN are discussing whom Joshua will fight on Aug. 12, sources said.
Eight days ago, per sources, Whyte received the first draft agreement, which was returned Monday. The Whyte side objected to a rematch clause, sources said, and that was removed by Matchroom on Thursday.
The contract returned by Whyte (29-3, 19 KOs) didn't include pay-per-view considerations for the proposed event in the U.K.; Matchroom is now awaiting that signed portion, per sources, as deliberations continue.
As talks continue, all signs point to Joshua and Whyte meeting a second time, but AJ is already looking ahead to a potential megafight with Deontay Wilder in Saudi Arabia in December, a bout Hearn has talked about in the press for weeks.
Joshua, a 33-year-old from England, is a two-time heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist. He lost his three titles to Andy Ruiz in June 2019 in one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight championship history.
Joshua (25-3, 22 KOs) regained his titles in December 2019 with a decision victory over Ruiz in the rematch and made a successful defense of the unified championship with a ninth-round KO of Kubrat Pulev.
However, Joshua lost his titles a second time when he met former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk in August 2021. Usyk outpointed Joshua again in the September 2022 rematch.
Joshua, ESPN's No. 4 heavyweight, parted ways with longtime trainer Rob McCracken following the first Usyk loss and then ended his partnership with Robert Garcia after only one fight.
Joshua returned in April with a decision win over Jermaine Franklin with Derrick James, ESPN's 2022 trainer of the year, leading his corner.
Whyte, ESPN's No. 7 heavyweight, scored a majority decision victory over Franklin in November, seven months after he was stopped in Round 6 by Tyson Fury in his long-awaited first title shot.
Prior to the Fury loss, Whyte, a 36-year-old Londoner, scored a fourth-round TKO of Alexander Povetkin in March 2021 to avenge a fifth-round KO defeat in August 2020.