Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and the game of thrones
The most dramatic battle yet as rival kingdoms collide in two world heavyweight title fights
Last Updated: 18/11/19 3:55pm
For the exiled king Anthony Joshua the summer of his reign was long and prosperous – but it ended abruptly and through this long, dark winter he has plotted his revival from afar.
In Joshua's absence greater emphasis than ever is on Deontay Wilder, whose control over the WBC dynasty has lasted almost five years. It has been a regime of terrifying brutality, of snarling faces and battered bodies left in his wake.
"I'm a totally different king, a totally different beast," Wilder warned Joshua but before their rivalry becomes reality he must deal with old enemies who aim to bring down his empire.
Luis Ortiz shook Wilder to his core last year but eventually succumbed - on Saturday night there is a rematch, live on Sky Sports, a fortnight before Joshua tries to overthrow Andy Ruiz Jr, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
The heavyweight game of thrones is shaping up to be the most dramatic battle yet, all the while a force that threatens the existing kings, Tyson Fury, gathers pace.
Joshua will be shorn of his home comforts of Cardiff, a land where dragons lurk, and will be thrust into an emerging kingdom, Saudi Arabia, in his attempt to avenge defeat to Ruiz Jr. The shockwaves of the first fight are still being felt but perhaps they were initiated two weeks earlier, when Wilder's shuddering one-round demolition of Dominic Breazeale threw down the gauntlet.
Back then their respective gangs of New York were only separated by the Brooklyn Bridge in the same city but now they are 8,000 miles apart, further than ever in terms of distance and in terms of the mega-fight that the sport desires.
Joshua vs Wilder is still possible if they both win, and the first hurdle comes this weekend in the shape of a man called 'King Kong'.
Ortiz, the southpaw from Cuba, has only lost to Wilder in his 34 fights and came very close to causing an upset in their first fight.
"I was buzzed, highly buzzed, but I had my consciousness," Wilder has admitted. He roared back with a 10th-round knockout and has since drawn a fight with Fury. His expected rematch with Fury in February relies upon dispatching Ortiz again.
Wilder and Ortiz are two fathers to disabled daughters, they share a unique understanding and an almost familial bond. Wilder, the longest reigning king even before Joshua was exiled, extended his hand to Ortiz in respect but is now learning than even allies may try to bite.
Ortiz is one of at least nine noble challengers who wage war, desperate to take Wilder or Ruiz Jr's position as champion, or Joshua and Fury's status. This crop of dangerous creatures includes Dillian Whyte, Oleksandr Usyk, Derek Chisora and Joseph Parker and they each pose a threat, they each creep closer every day.
The exiled king is gone but not forgotten by the champion who wears a golden mask and crown.
"Me and Joshua have a different mindset," Wilder boasted. "Mine is strong, way stronger than his.
"I'm fighting for one champion, one face, one name - the [undisputed] champion. Nobody will get in my way, nobody.
"This is what it's all about - the heavyweight division, the big boys, the heavy hitters - where one hit can end everything, no matter how hard a person has worked."
The iron throne awaits whoever survives this latest battle. Joshua's comeback is imminent, but the first move is Wilder's.
Wilder vs Ortiz is on Sunday morning at 2am, live on Sky Sports, after Callum Smith vs John Ryder on Saturday night.