The long-rumored, long-discussed clash of British heavyweights is finally signed, with Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua set to clash for all four world titles and the crown of undisputed champion.
It has never happened in the four-belt era, and the last person to be called the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world was also a Brit — Boxing Hall of Famer Lennox Lewis, who was last recognized as such in 2000.
There are many questions yet to be answered, and many more that will come up in the lead-up to the fight. But for now, Ben Baby, Nick Parkinson, Eric Woodyard and Michael Rothstein break down everything you need to know about Joshua-Fury to let you know what’s real, and what’s not.
This is the biggest fight in British boxing history — and the biggest fight of 2021Anthony Joshua, right, is set to fight Tyson Fury in a high-stakes heavyweight title unification bout and one of the biggest showcases in British boxing history. Andrew Couldridge/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Parkinson: Real. This is bigger than any fight involving a British boxer before, home or away. And the importance of this megafight goes beyond the financial stakes at play or the significance that it will be the first world heavyweight fight with all four major titles on the line.
It is due to the fact that Joshua and Fury are household names meeting at the peak of their careers. It requires no selling, but when the trash talk starts, it will only increase the appetite for this encounter.
In the UK, Fury has gained fans since his comeback and achieved crossover appeal with his campaigning for mental health. He is seen by his fans as the antithesis to Joshua’s corporate image and sponsorship deals. But Joshua has his own fans, as evidenced by him bringing in crowds of 90,000 to title defenses in the UK, and he has gained momentum and popularity for winning back the belts after losing them to Andy Ruiz Jr.
Nothing captures the British public’s imagination more than all-British grudge matches, and some of the biggest fights in British history have been domestic disputes, such as Carl Froch-George Groves, Lennox Lewis-Frank Bruno and Chris Eubank-Nigel Benn. Other British boxers involved in megafights against the biggest names include Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko, David Haye vs. Klitschko, Joe Calzaghe vs. Mikkel Kessler, Ricky Hatton vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Kostya Tszyu, Lewis vs. Mike Tyson, Bruno vs. Mike Tyson, Henry Cooper vs. Muhammad Ali, Tommy Farr vs. Joe Louis, Ted “Kid” Lewis vs. Georges Carpentier.
Perhaps the biggest to challenge Fury-Joshua was Sugar Ray Robinson’s two world middleweight fights with England’s Randy Turpin in 1951, or Bob Fitzsimmons’ world heavyweight title win over James J. Corbett in Carson City, Nevada, which was huge global news in 1897.
It’s cruel that such a big event for British boxing — and the biggest in world boxing in 2021 — is likely to take place outside the English boxers’ home nation. But social distancing rules, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mean we won’t be getting Fury-Joshua at Wembley Stadium in front of 90,000 fans this summer.
Let’s just be grateful we’re getting it at all, and that hopefully we will get a second helping later in 2021, with fans in attendance at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
The winner of this fight will be considered one of the best heavyweights everTyson Fury has not stepped into the ring since defeating Deontay Wilder in February 2020. EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT
Baby: Not real. No. And let me say it one more, time — No.
That’s not a slight on Fury or Joshua, two men who have brought some much-needed excitement to a division that was once the pinnacle of worldwide sports. But the energy infusion and rising stock of both fighters don’t mean either one is deserving of being considered one of the best heavyweights ever.
The winner will have a marquee win over Wladimir Klitschko and over his opponent here, which are very strong credentials in the modern era. But with boxing’s rich history that spans more than 100 years, it means all-time status is a lot tougher to achieve.
Here’s the better question: Can Fury or Joshua supplant the great Lennox Lewis as the greatest British fighter of all time? And given Lewis’ wins over the likes of Evander Holyfield, Tyson, Hasim Rahman and Vitali Klitschko, it’s hard to argue against Lewis.
Hopefully the aggressive matchmaking we’ve seen in the heavyweight division in recent years can strengthen the division as a whole and boost the legacies of all the current fighters, which will be big no matter who wins this Fury-Joshua matchup.
Fury will win this fight
Rothstein: Real. Fury is unpredictable and can come at an opponent from a variety of angles and styles, which makes him both difficult to prepare for and tough to anticipate, even in the course of a single bout. So even if Joshua thinks he’s seen one style and that’s it, Fury can easily switch it up on him.
Add into that equation that Joshua’s chin is not nearly as reliable as Fury’s. Joshua’s been knocked down by Wladimir Klitschko and knocked out by Ruiz. There is some vulnerability there. Yes, Fury has been knocked down as well — notably by Deontay Wilder — but Fury has largely been more consistent.
Fury’s height (6-foot-9) as well as his speed should help him here, too.
Let’s be clear, though: This is not an easy fight for Fury, and it’s not one he should take lightly or with anything less than his best preparation, lest he fall into a trap against Joshua.
Joshua will win this fight
Parkinson: Real. I have changed my opinion on who’ll win the first encounter after seeing Joshua’s latest performance. Joshua produced a dominant ninth-round KO victory over Kubrat Pulev to defend his WBO, WBA and IBF world titles in December, which has restored his confidence and belief. After avenging the loss to Ruiz, in a slightly cautious points win in December 2019, Joshua demolished Pulev to display a lot more of the explosive version of Joshua we were used to seeing early on in his first reign as champion. Fury will have been out of the ring well over a year by the time they meet, and this will sway the balance toward Joshua in their first clash, at least, and restore him as the man to beat in the heavyweight division.
Fury was brilliant against Wilder in February last year, and has better boxing skills than Joshua. But Joshua, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist, can box himself and is well capable of executing the right strategy and knockout finish, as he showed against another taller opponent with range and jabbing ability in Klitschko four years ago.
Wilder should get the winner of this Fury-Joshua fightDeontay Wilder could certainly be up next for the winner of Joshua-Fury, but he should step back into the ring to rebuild his confidence first. ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Woodyard: Real. He has earned that right. Let’s not forget, the Bronze Bomber has only a single loss on his record. With that being said, I don’t think it’s the best personal decision for Wilder’s long-term career.
Yes, it makes the most sense financially and in terms of promotion and marketability, but not necessarily for Wilder as a fighter. At least not right now. In my opinion, it would be smart to win a tuneup fight first, make some tweaks in his skill set, and then jump back in with the elites of the heavyweight division.
We all can agree that the devastating TKO loss to Fury in 2020 was not only a blemish to his previous undefeated record, but also to his ego as a human being. It was apparent through his postfight interviews, so I think the smart choice would be to retune and regain his sky-high confidence before taking on Fury or Joshua.
Now, I wouldn’t wait too long either. He wants to be at his best, physically and mentally, when he competes for another title.