By Alex Wood, courtesy of The Daily Star
TYSON FURY could give Anthony Joshua a serious run for his money in a heavyweight clash – but he faces a huge battle to get fighting fit.
That’s according to former IBF middleweight champion Darren Barker who reckons Fury’s team face an uphill battle getting the self-styled Gypsy King back into peak condition.
Barker should know. Since hanging up his gloves, he's opened 12x3 gym in Aldgate with co-founder Ryan Pickard and is turning clients into champs on a daily basis.
Having been coached by the legendary Tony Burns at Repton Boxing Club, the duo are paying homage to their roots in 12x3.
It’s a premium gym with an authentic feel and Barker kept things old school when he put Starsport through their paces.
In between pad sessions, skipping and footwork coaching, he gave his verdict on getting Fury – who’s been out of action for two years – back into shape.
“It’s slowly, slowly catchy monkey,” said Barker.
“There’s no date in mind [to face Joshua] as far as I’m concerned so it’s a case of gradually easing him into training.
“If you go in too hard and too fast then he’s going to get injured.
“Tyson’s been there, he’s done it and he knows his body. He’s not been a stranger to moving up weight even when he was active - he’d often put a load on.
“But it’ll be a different kettle of fish now trying to lose seven stone.
“There’s still fire in his belly. Fury is a fighter and he wants what he believes is his.
“He’ll be annoyed he’s put on so much weight because it will make life a bit more difficult and it slows the process down.”
Fury has been out of action since beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 amid a series of well-documented personal struggles.
He is currently awaiting the results of a hearing into allegations of doping brought by UK Anti-Doping last year.
However, the 29-year-old has repeatedly maintained his innocence and expects to be cleared of the charges ready to fight next year.
Barker says ring rust and lifestyle could have badly affected Fury’s chances of ever beating Joshua.
The 35-year-old - who retired in 2013 - says a fit Fury is still capable of causing a major upset, though.
“My only concern with him if I’m honest is the way he’s lived outside [the ring],” added Barker.
“It’s very difficult. I was out for 14 months but it was through injury and I was still trying to do different bits and pieces.
“I just don’t know if you can live like that and compete with the likes of Joshua who is the ideal modern day heavyweight.
“But one thing with Tyson is he’s so mentally strong.
“If he says he’s going to lose seven stone, get in the shape of his life and shock the world like Ali did against Foreman then you’ve got to be a mad man to bet against him. He’s unbeaten and believes in himself.”
It isn’t just Fury that’s piled on the pounds.
Joshua weighed in at a whopping [254-pounds] ahead of his fight with Carlos Takam last month compared with  for his fight against Wladimir Klitschko earlier this year.
Despite eyebrows being raised by Joshua’s ever increasing size, Barker says he wouldn’t be too concerned – at least in the short term.
“I think the comparison always goes back to Frank Bruno - you’re very muscular, lactic acid can build up and you fatigue quite quickly,” Barker said.
“But he’s got a great team around him. I think he’s just naturally quite a huge guy.
“In my opinion the weight doesn’t concern me yet. If he starts hitting the 20 stone then you can start worrying a little.
“At the moment he looks to be doing everything right.”