By Keith Idec
With the biggest fight of his career looming, Anthony Joshua wouldn’t have gotten into a Twitter war with Tyson Fury if Fury didn’t provoke him.
Among other things, Fury called Joshua “a paper champ” with a “paper chin,” and a “poor man’s Frank Bruno.” Joshua responded by informing Fury that Fury is the only reason the British rivals haven’t fought and that he’ll leave two ringside tickets for Fury to the Joshua-Klitschko fight April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London – one for Fury and one for Fury’s “fat ass.”
When asked during an interview posted Wednesday by iFL TV if Fury is in his head, Joshua countered that it’s the other way around.
“No, no, no, no,” Joshua said. “I think I get in his head. Do you know what I mean? Because he talks about me a lot. So I must be in his head. I don’t know what it is.”
The 27-year-old Joshua figured he would’ve fought Fury by now. But after Fury’s ill-fated rematch with Klitschko was canceled, the former heavyweight champion stepped away from boxing to seek treatment for alcoholism, drug abuse and depression.
Manchester’s Fury hasn’t fought since he upset Klitschko by unanimous decision in November 2015 to win the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles in Dusseldorf, Germany. The 28-year-old Fury is expected to return to the ring later this year.
While Fury worked to resolve his personal issues, Ukraine’s Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) turned his attention to the wildly popular Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs).
“Like if we were talking 17 months ago, I would never fight Klitschko and he’s too much for me and so on and so forth,” Joshua said. “So the realistic fight was Tyson Fury around [that] time. Do you know what I mean? But it just didn’t happen due to certain reasons. So I moved on. It’s still a fight that will happen, for sure. But when the time’s right, really, it seems. When the time’s right, but no problem. If he wants to fight, it’s no problem.”
The thing Joshua found least offensive from Fury’s Twitter insults Tuesday was the comparison to Bruno. The former WBC heavyweight champion from London got knocked out by James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Tim Witherspoon, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson (twice), but Joshua considers Bruno a respectable representation of British boxing.
“You know what? To a certain extent, if I’m the poor man’s Frank Bruno, it’s a credit,” Joshua said. “You know what I mean? Because he was a true servant of boxing, he represented himself well, he gave us entertaining nights. So if I can be compared to a poor man’s Frank Bruno, I’m halfway there. But sometimes like you catch people on the wrong day and you’ve gotta voice your opinion as well. Someone can’t keep on poking you for so long. You can’t just sit down. You’re gonna react, so it’s just me voicing my opinion.
“And it’s really just saying like fighting fighters is inevitable. We’re all in the same era, so we’ve gotta fight each other. But like less talking. Let’s just train and try and improve, and make fights. I’m just here training. We don’t duck anyone. So I’m just trying to say instead of like talking so much and stuff like that, everybody wants to see you back and get fit and come back. And I’m a heavyweight that you wanna fight. Why not? That’s all.”
Joshua made it clear, though, that he doesn’t begrudge Fury for regularly reminding people that he walked away from boxing as the heavyweight champion of the world. Becoming the first fighter in more than 11 years to beat Klitschko is an accomplishment Joshua really respects, no matter how much Fury references it as proof of his superiority in their exchanges.
“No, no. It’s a fact,” Joshua said. “It’s not like he’s making it up. He has beaten Klitschko and I give him credit for that. In his mind it does [have relevance to my fight against Klitschko]. But look, I don’t know. I haven’t beaten Klitschko yet, so it doesn’t have any relevance yet. You know what I mean?
“But at the end of the day, if that’s what he wants to hold onto, he can take it to his grave with him. It don’t have no relevance in my afterlife, so he can take that picture, lying next to the belts, to the grave. He retweets it every week. And that’s what he’s proud of. That’s his achievement, and I’m happy for him, too. He’s done well. The boy did good.”
Roughly 90,000 tickets have been sold to the Joshua-Klitschko fight.
Showtime will televise the scheduled 12-round fight live in the United States. HBO will televise it on delay. Sky Sports Box Office will air it on pay-per-view in the United Kingdom.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.