Anthony Joshua joked that he barely had time to enjoy Christmas before fight brokers reminded him ahead of New Year’s Eve that he would soon be turning from his late-December stoppage of Otto Wallin to meet former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in March.

Joshua’s destructive second-round knockout demonstrated that his activity was high and the union with trainer Ben Davison was going swimmingly.

And now Joshua (28-3, 25 KOs) will wait to see what transpires May 18 when the man he lost his three heavyweight belts to, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs), steps into a ring in Saudi Arabia against Joshua’s countryman, Tyson Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs).

Although a rematch clause exists between Usyk and Fury, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has said he would like to stage the long-awaited Joshua-Fury bout in the interim, should Fury defeat Usyk.

In discussing Joshua’s future on Friday’s episode of Pro Box TV’s “Deep Waters,” analyst and former welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi said that he believes Joshua has fully resurrected himself from those consecutive losses to Usyk in 2021 and 2022.

“The new-look Joshua with [former Fury trainer] Davison … I’m buying what they’re selling,” Malignaggi said. “I really feel he’s a threat to Usyk if they fought a third time.”

Joshua’s ability to so convincingly defeat a problematic southpaw in Wallin, who opened up a gash on Fury that required 47 stitches to close, and then destroy Ngannouy after the former UFC heavyweight champion knocked down Fury and took the bout to the scorecards, is a significant turn.

“I’m back on the Joshua train,” said Chris Algieri, another “Deep Waters” analyst. “If I’m making a video game character of a heavyweight, I’m making that guy. He’s got everything: the look, the power, the technique; the attitude is back.”

While Joshua lost some luster in losing his U.S. debut in a stunning TKO loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden in 2019, his revival in this Saudi doubleheader makes him the top challenger to whoever emerges victorious May 18.

The wrinkle is the Usyk-Fury rematch clause, and if that takes precedence following a tightly contested May 18 bout, then Joshua should turn to unbeaten Croatian Filip Hrgovic (17-0), should he defeat Daniel Dubois on June 1 in Saudi Arabia, said Malignaggi.

“Can we start mentioning Filip Hrgovic and make this an actual sport?” Malignaggi roared. “Hrgovic has been avoided. The Joshua-Hrgovic and Fury-Usyk winners should fight.”

Algieri agreed that if Hrgovic “washes, dismantles” Dubois, then he deserves that opportunity to test Joshua’s chin.

“We’ve seen [Joshua] be inconsistent, and that inconsistency starts here,” Algieri said, motioning to his head. 

A heavy blow to Joshua’s head “can happen anytime, and it’s like what Mike Tyson said: your life changes with one punch. It’d be very easy for [Joshua] to revert to that guy who struggled against Andy Ruiz.”

With Davison in his corner and a major bout looming, the presence of Joshua adds to the anticipation of activity in the sport’s most compelling division.