The huge Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury showdown may not happen this year, but Danny Flexen looks at some significant factors for when it does occur
Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury – 5 key factors
1. Amateur pedigree
Tyson Fury may well have achieved a great deal in the unpaid code, had he only stayed amateur for a little longer. He began at 14, but had presumably already done some training with his fighting family – father John and uncle Peter were both pros. At 6ft 8in and with commensurate reach, Fury had the size and mobility to excel beyond the national senior title he captured in 2008. However, with a keen desire to punch for pay and win a professional world title, Tyson turned pro seven months later, aged just 20 and never looked back, despite just 35 bouts in the vest. Anthony Joshua was, however a later starter, only taking up boxing at the age of 18. While he progressed quickly at Finchley ABC then the GB squad, perhaps the Watford man realised he needed greater amateur seasoning given his belated introduction to the sport. This proved sensible as he bagged Olympic gold and World silver in just 43 amateur fights, competing regularly against quality fighters, boasting diverse styles, on the international stage.
2. Quality of opposition as pros
This is where Fury has certainly compensated for his abbreviated amateur tenure and certainly a significant factor in why he will likely start a betting favourite over Joshua should they meet in the near future. Tyson has only met five opponents with losing records and has faced taken on undefeated rivals on an impressive eight occasions. Joshua meanwhile has taken the vaunted zero from six men and taken on just two foes with more losses than wins. These stats suggest a tight comparison but delve deeper and Fury comes out on top. He has twice taken on Deontay Wilder, the previously undefeated WBC champion, and outpointed a Wladimir Klitschko, in Germany, who had not lost in over a decade. Joshua, meanwhile won his first world title from a comparatively weak champion in Charles Martin, and beat a more faded version of Klitschko 17 months after Fury had eradicated his aura of invincibility. Wins over Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin are noteworthy, as is the revenge victory against Andy Ruiz, although of course AJ lost to the Mexican-American first. Unbeaten Fury’s comprehensive triumphs over the likes of Christian Hammer and Dereck Chisora are often underrated.
Fury is an underrated puncher, but he frustrates opponents as much as hurting them physically, subduing them mentally by landing from unorthodox angles and then proving exceptionally hard to tag on the counter. He is still a huge man and carries weight in his shots but has rarely taken good fighters out with a single blow. Of his 21 early finishes (in 30 wins) three have been corner retirements. Joshua boasts the same number of inside-schedule victories but in just 23 triumphs, only a cautious Parker and Ruiz – when Joshua adopted a more sensible approach than in their first meeting – taking him the full 12 rounds. The potent punches that wiped out Dilliian Whyte and Klitschko would likely have knocked out any heavyweight. Joshua is an explosive, hard hitter and an excellent finisher.
4. Defence and chin
Both men can be tagged and hurt, but one has lost by stoppage and the other has survived two knockdowns, one especially heavy, from the biggest puncher of their generation. Joshua showed great heart to drag himself off the canvas against Klitschko but, previous to the Ruiz defeat, was often happy to rumble into the danger zone, confident that he could outgun anyone he fought. His head movement is decent, but AJ prefers to block shots and move back out of range, though his willingness to exchange is perhaps the biggest concern for someone who has been stopped in the amateurs, reportedly knocked down in sparring and decked on multiple occasions as a pro. Fury is no stranger to the canvas himself, and has been caught square and felled by average opposition a number of times. That said, he is hard to hit cleanly, due to his mobility and switching of stances, and a lot of the knockdowns he suffered can be attributed to a lack of concentration more than any defensive flaws. Let’s not forget, also, that Fury has always got up to win or, at least draw, and that is a significant fact going into a highly anticipated showdown with Joshua.
Each man has shown their ability to change up the game in their most recent outings, though in opposite directions. In outboxing Ruiz in December, Joshua proved that he could resist a temptation for gunslinging and outbox an aggressive opponent from the outside, taking the opening that were there for him but not becoming greedy. His movement and fluidity were something of a revelation in Saudi Arabia, although the shining performance was aided somewhat by Ruiz coming in overweight and sluggish. Fury, conversely, took a night off from pecking, poking and irritating opponents off the back foot when he took the fight to Wilder in February. Having employed Kronk trainer Sugar Hill Steward to aid in this express purpose, Fury stayed on the front foot, using his speed, accuracy and size to push the bigger puncher back, dominate and ultimately force his corner into submission. Though Tyson said this was the approach he would take, few actually believed him. Both men have displayed prowess for adapting to the opponent in front of them, particularly if they have fought that person before, but Fury has made the greater changes against the superior threat.