Time moves on quickly in boxing. Right now, the only huge heavyweight clash in the sport would be Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. And after his demolition of Deontay Wilder at the weekend, not that many people are confidently predicting a Joshua win should they meet.
As far as it is known, Fury and Joshua have only shared a ring once, a decade ago, and at the time, Fury happily admitted that it was Joshua who got the better of things.
It was Fury who was one of the first to let on to the world that there was a talented heavyweight lurking in North London called Anthony Joshua. Now they seem to be increasingly bitter rivals, on a collision course to one of the biggest fights in boxing history, then they were young fighters making their way in the sport.
Fury has been a professional for two years at that point, Joshua had just won the ABA super-heavyweight title, but only a few people really had an idea of his potential. However, those behind him were confident enough to offer Joshua up for some sparring with the 6ft 9in prospect at Finchley Boxing Club, where he gave Fury a bit of a hiding.
“He’s red hot,” Fury told Steve Bunce’s radio show at the time. “I thought I have only got to take it easy because he is only an amateur and he probably won’t spar again if I go mad.
“He’s rushed out at me and threw a one-two, left hook, and I slipped and slide. And bash he hit me a big uppercut right on the point of the chin. If I had a weak chin like David Price, I would have been knocked out for a month.
“He is very, very, very good and only young, 20. Watch out for that name, Anthony Joshua.”
Their relationship changed soon after, as Joshua’s stratospheric rise through the amateur ranks to Olympic gold in 2012 was followed by equally fast progression through the professional ranks to the point where he picked up all of the belts that Fury had won from Wladimir Klitschko, almost as quickly as Fury was handing them back.
Legend has it that when George Harrison was once asked what he would have been if The Beatles had not been a success, he answered “a better guitarist”. Likewise, there are those that think Joshua was prevented from being the best he could have been by becoming a world champion when he did.
Had Tyson Fury not gone off the rails and given up the titles he won from Wladimir Klitschko, Joshua’s rise to being a world champion would have been significantly delayed.
When Fury beat Klitschko, Joshua had not even boxed for the British title. Fury never defended any of his world titles. He was stripped of the IBF belt soon after he won it and then handed back the WBA, IBO and WBO titles when depression drove him into a life of drink, drugs and over-eating.
Fury’s problems became an opportunity for Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn. So when, in April 2016, Joshua challenged Charles Martin for the IBF title, the thinking was not whether Joshua was ready to become world champion, but whether he was ready to beat Charles Martin. There is no doubt he was, as he quickly demonstrated.
The problem was, as a world champion, you have to have world-title fights. So, his training was thereafter tailored his next title fights, rather than developing Joshua into a completely rounded fighter. The years of development and sparring for the hell of it were missed out.
The biggest risk was taken when Joshua boxed Klitschko, which was seen as a “then or never” opportunity against a boxer, who against Fury, had shown signs that me might struggle to “pull the trigger” any more.
It all came unstuck in his first fight with Andy Ruiz Jr, when he rushed in after flooring the Mexican-American and was nailed by a shot from which he didn’t recover. It is difficult to knock his performance in the rematch. It was risk-free boxing, about as far away from the naturally aggressive younger Joshua as you could get.
Joshua is certainly nowhere as bad as the naysayers suggest, but neither is he as good as the hype. However, those are statements that could count for any boxer, including Fury.
He does offer Fury a different challenge to Wilder. Likewise, Joshua has always been happier fighting taller opponents than shorter ones. Fury, though, has now proved his ability once and for all. The question mark still hovers over Joshua.