Morning all, and happy Monday to you. It was a beautiful weekend here in Mexico City. I have a little patio that gets about four of hours of intense sunlight every day, and I was out there both Saturday and Sunday – beer in hand – in a desperate attempt to colour my pale British skin. I succeeded, and while the colour is definitely more red than brown and my face feels like a pre-heated oven ready to roast a lasagne, I won’t let that dampen my spirits.
I thought we’d have a look today at some big news coming out the boxing world. Last week, British heavyweight Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn announced that a two-fight deal with rival Tyson Fury has been agreed, in principal, to take place next year. While Fury’s promoter Frank Warren cautioned that the contract is yet to be signed, both he and his fighter took to social media to express their excitement about the upcoming bouts. Indeed, Warren said it would be the biggest sporting event in the UK since England won the World Cup in 1966.
While the organizers of London 2012 might take objection to that, a world heavyweight unification clash between two British boxers is certainly an enticing prospect. Both Joshua and Fury are popular fighters with attractive but clearly divergent styles. Assuming the bout takes place next summer, Joshua and Fury will be 31 and 32 respectively, both in the prime of their careers. Two champions in their physical peak. Joshua has one defeat to his name, Fury none. And for that reason, among others, my money would be on the Gypsy King. Just about.
I have written at length before about my admiration for Fury. His 6ft 9 in frame, 85in reach and natural boxing talent make him one of the best heavyweights ever. He moves incredibly well for such a big man, powerful and probing in attack, ducking and dodging in defence. He is also a wonderfully bizarre individual who wears his heart on his sleeve, a trait that has slowly but surely endeared him to the British public. Having already taken on, and beaten, the likes of Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder, he won’t be afraid of Joshua’s power. That fearlessness could be the deciding factor in a fight that is, on paper at least, possibly too close to call.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Joshua too. Ever since he won the Olympic gold medal in London, I have closely followed his development and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of his 21 knockout victories to date. While he does not possess the natural talent of someone like Fury, he more than makes up for it with brutal, irresistible power. He is, as I am sure Hearn would attest, a promoter’s dream; eloquent, stylish, and apparently down to earth. His “rags to riches” story – he narrowly avoided a jail sentence for drug possession back in 2011 – makes him all the more marketable and he is often portrayed as the “good guy” of British boxing by local media. And he has proven his mental strength, dragging himself up from the canvas against Klitschko in 2017 when many expected him to stay down.
But Joshua’s defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr remains a significant moment when assessing a potential matchup with Fury. I don’t think it’s disrespectful to say he was knocked out by a far inferior fighter, and that is a big worry. The aura of invincibility, such an important weapon in a boxer’s armory, is gone. Both Fury and the crowd know he is beatable. Perhaps more importantly, Joshua knows it too. If he can lose to Ruiz he can most certainly lose to Fury, even if that defeat was down to a simple lapse in concentration more than anything else.
Its worth noting, of course, that there are a couple of potential stumbling blocks on the road to this fight becoming a reality. For starters, they both have to win their next fights. Fury is due to take on Wilder in the final installment of a trilogy of bouts at some point later this year. After being robbed of victory in the first fight, Fury dominated his American counterpart in the February rematch, proving himself to be the far better fighter. While no-one wants a third bout, except perhaps the Wilder camp, it appears to be inevitable. Fury will have to be careful – he has been flawed by one of the Oklahoman’s fierce punches before – but the Mancunian’s superior boxing skills should be enough to see him safely through again.
Joshua, meanwhile, has a mandatory fight against Kubrat Pulev to navigate. The Bulgarian has a solid-enough record, the only blot on an otherwise perfect copybook coming in defeat against Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014. But he is weaker and less athletic than Joshua, not to mention almost 10 years older. With the promise of a unification bout against Fury spurring him on – a potentially once in a lifetime opportunity – I would be amazed to see the Londoner slip up.
All of this should mean that, after years of verbal jousts and digital taunts, Fury-Joshua will finally happen at some point in 2021. It would be a crying shame for the bout to take place in anything other than an enormous, sold-out stadium, so fingers crossed the boxing authorities can find a way to safely achieve that over the course of the next 12 months.
Right, that’s all for today. Let me know your thoughts on Fury-Joshua in the comments section below or via Twitter. See you on Wednesday when, all being well, Arsenal will play a real life game of football again!