Boxing: Joshua’s win paves the way for a fight with Fury

Boxing: Joshua’s win paves the way for a fight with Fury

Eighteen months ago, after unexpectedly losing to the unlikely figure of Andy Ruiz Jr – the first defeat of his professional career – Anthony Joshua learnt how unpredictable and unforgiving heavyweight boxing can be, said Donald McRae in The Observer. 

But at Wembley Arena on Saturday night, facing a similarly unfancied adversary, he didn’t make the mistake of underestimating his opponent. Rarely has the champion looked so focused as in this bout with the 39-year-old Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, said Oliver Brown in The Sunday Telegraph. The 31-year-old champion attacked without mercy from the start: he nearly finished Pulev off with a ferocious uppercut in round three. But the Bulgarian proved a “marvel of durability”, continuing to “absorb shots from Joshua that would have floored lesser heavyweights”. His resistance lasted until round nine, when he was finally laid flat by another “battery of uppercuts”. 

This win reaffirms Joshua’s status as the unified heavyweight champion, the holder of four out of the five major belts, said Rick Broadbent in The Sunday Times. Just one belt – the prestigious WBC – eludes him, and winning it would make him the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999. However, in Tyson Fury, the current WBC holder, Joshua would first have to overcome a truly formidable opponent. 

Many in the boxing world think a deal could be arranged within days, said Sam Blitz in the Daily Mail. As Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, put it: “We’re going to be friendly, we’re going to be nice, starting from tomorrow we make the Tyson Fury fight happen.” If it came about, the contest would undoubtedly be the biggest event in British boxing history, said Gareth A. Davies in The Daily Telegraph. In fact, it might just be “the biggest heavyweight showdown since Muhammad Ali took on Joe Frazier 50 years ago”. And yet it could well take place in the Middle East, not in Britain, because only the state-assisted likes of Saudi Arabia or the UAE are thought to be capable of meeting the £100m pay packets being demanded by the pair. 

Wherever the contest takes place, it will be a mouth-watering clash of personalities as well as boxing styles, said Broadbent in The Times. That contrast was thrown into stark relief by the two fighter’s contrasting reactions on Saturday. Within minutes of Joshua’s knockout blow, Fury had posted a video on Instagram of himself wearing a Christmas jumper proclaiming Joshua to be a “big bum dosser”. Joshua, for his part, was typically circumspect. “It’s not about the opponent, it’s about the legacy and the belt,” he had replied when asked about a possible clash with Fury. “Whoever’s got the belt, I’d love to compete with them.”