ANTHONY JOSHUA vs. Tyson Fury; a spiteful throwback to boxing’s dark ages, a secretly written WWE-esque ticket-selling ploy…or a perfect mix of the two?
The back-and-forth relationship between the two English giants has been almost as exciting as their separate rises to the top of the sport.
12 years ago, after their very first meeting at AJ’s Finchley ABC Gym, Fury gushed about his potential, personality and uppercut.
In the decade since, Gypsy King has also labeled AJ a “big stiff jerk,” cranked up the criminal record he accumulated as a wayward teenager, dismissed him as “just another naked bum in the shower,” used to slapping mature, and nothing more than a bodybuilder could he punch rings around.
But he has also praised the former WBA, IBF and WBO king.
Fury, the unbeaten WBC boss, 33, has praised his rival for ensuring his family’s financial security for generations in a sport he only learned when he was around 18.
When the 6ft 9in ace shocked AJ with FaceTime calls, he asked about his baby son JJ and wished the whole Joshua family well.
Fury has the ability to confuse opponents just as well outside the ring as he can outsmart them inside, and Joshua knows it all too well.
“He changes like the weather, you can’t take anything he says too seriously,” is the usual line AJ uses when asked about the flirting that occasionally occurs between the two.
When they met face-to-face in Marbella, Spain – Fury and his wife Paris pulled up alongside AJ, who was walking down the sidewalk – the chatter was achingly boring, with Josh even admitting to waving to Mrs Fury and saying “hello”. .
It was hardly the lines Roberto Duran has since denied uttering to Sugar Ray Leonard’s wife ahead of their sensational first fight in 1980.
Poor Juanita was reportedly told her husband would be murdered in the Montreal ring and then Duran would put her to bed to celebrate.
Mr. Hands of Stone has attempted to erase those quotes from history, but Mike Tyson is dubbing him the Alexander the Great of psychological warfare — and the baddest man on the planet should know.
Despite being a very different fighter from these two threats, who had won most of their early fights before the opening bell, Fury has also made mind games a crucial part of his arsenal.
Wladimir Klitschko must have thought he was getting in the ring with a crazy lunatic when it came to their duel in Dusseldorf in 2015.
Fury had shared brilliant stories about how he beat Klitschko in a sauna patch-off five years earlier and how Klitschko’s then-legendary trainer Emanuel Steward wanted to take on the Brit but was wary it would upset the Kazakhstan-born powerhouse.
He had also come to a press conference in the UK dressed as Batman a few months after their fight in November and faked a fight with an additional actor dressed as The Joker.
When it came to Deontay Wilder, Fury was again a master manipulator, jabbing about with praise and flattery while occasionally thundering with a back-to-back insult to throw his rival off balance.
AJ has rarely had to handle a needle like this and when he did it definitely made a difference in him.
The Dillian Whyte rivalry was brilliant to watch and cost AJ almost everything before he even got started.
After an obvious build-up, AJ decided to swap places with his London compatriot and former amateur opponent and was really wobbly before passing the Brixton man who was set to be a bye against the 2015 Olympic champion.
American pretender Dominic Breazeale dared goad AJ and was brutally punished six months later when Joshua showed he’d learned to keep a cool head under provocation.
Since then, AJ’s scalp count has been a long list of respectful and foreign opponents who didn’t have the mean streak or language skills to ruffle his feathers.
Carlos Takam, Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker all sang Joshua’s praises, preparing for the glorious 2018 win over Klitschko was almost sugar-sweet.
Andy Ruiz Jr did the same, even after stunning him with a New York KO.
Shameless doper Jarrell Miller – who was set to replace Ruiz Jr – definitely caused a stir when he landed in London in 2019, making lurid and unfounded allegations that AJ was a drug scam and a fake.
The Sky Sports episode of The Gloves Are Off between the pair was reportedly so spiteful it never aired or leaked, and that’s saying a lot in a sport where any publicity is good publicity.
But Miller’s ridiculous list of doping bans before and since that trip to the UK just makes it a shame Joshua never got his hands on him hard.
The result is that Fury retains the element of surprise should these two British heroes meet.
The clash of cultures would be exciting, as the AJBoxing brand – comprised of marketing masterminds and backed by dozens of high-end sponsors – goes head-to-head with the no-nonsense Fury family, made up of fighting men like Fury’s father Big John and Foot goes even bigger little brother Shane.
Both men were able to peer over the press conference table and see a kindred spirit bravely signing up for a fight contract that will put their names in history and even keep their great-grandchildren in designer clothes.
Or they could pull out dark, long-glossed over elements of each other’s pasts and expose them for the world to remember, tempting them to make a mistake once the bell rings.
It remains to be seen if we’ll ever find out – with Fury insisting on retiring after disposing of Whyte. But if a fight with AJ is offered, he might not want to turn it down. Let AJ reclaim his belts from Oleksandr Usyk first.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/2353456/tyson-fury-anthony-joshua-boxing-friendship/ Insights into Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua’s secret friendship, from midnight texts and FaceTimes to meetups in Marbella