As Fury and Joshua look set to lockhorns in a heavyweight super fight for all the belts in 2021, there is reason to look forward with a sense of optimism at the marquee division in boxing.
Words by Will Vo
The beauty of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua’s fight is in its polarization; the way it separates boxing fans into two clear groups: those who think Anthony Joshua takes the throne, and those who think “The Gypsy King” walks out with the crown once more.
In fact, in 2017, I was sat in the Copperbox Arena watching Billy Joe Saunders, when Tyson Fury entered the arena to support his friend, and despite not having boxed in close to two years at that point, with no clear route back, he garnered the loudest cheer of the night; and prompted the person sat next to me to ask “do you think he beats Joshua?”. That night, I answered yes. Uncertainly, but yes nonetheless.
Now, my opinion is closer, having watched more boxing, and having seen Joshua at wrinkles to his game that can help him in this fight.
There are undoubtedly ways both can win, from the fundamentally sound power punching of AJ, to the slick moving versatility of the Gyspy King, this bout is truly mouthwatering.
For Anthony Joshua, the consensus seems to be that he possesses the kryptonite to Fury’s notorious elusivity; and that is combination punching and body shots. However, even with these weapons at his disposal, it only opens up the pressing question which is how can he use them?
The answer seems dangerously unsophisticated, but it might be the perfect one, and it’s when Fury touches his nose.
All boxers have reset mechanisms, e.g. how they subconsciously regain their composure, and when Fury wipes his nose with his glove, Joshua needs to jump on him; which is vastly easier said than done. Wilder managed to time it once in his first fight with Fury, and almost knocked him out, so potentially Joshua can learn from that and time his attacks according to when Fury least wants to exchange.
The extension of this path to victory is unpredictability in how he starts his attacks. Fury has an innate ability to get reads on his opponents, as was seen when he fought Chisora for the second time, and this explains his reputation as a guy who wins rematches in a more convincing fashion than the first fight.
Joshua can’t rely on a jab to get into range against Fury, and has to use different methods of attack to apply pressure, such as body work, lead right hands, and even feints to draw Fury out, which he can counter with his very impressive pull-counter, much like against Pulev.
If AJ can put all his weapons together, and land them on Fury, we could see a fight in which the shorter, but more powerful boxer offsets the slick taller man with body shots and combinations on the inside, forcing a stoppage in the mid-to-late rounds as Fury has to take risks in order to make up for the lost early rounds.
It feels almost foolish to suggest that Fury should adjust his perfect gameplan from the Wilder fight, but it is important to remember that there are key stylistic differences between the Bronze Bomber, and AJ, and that this translates into some slight tweaks that can help him out.
First of which is that Anthony Joshua can fight on the inside with far greater effect than Deontay Wilder, as was highlighted by his uppercuts against Klitschko and Pulev. To counteract this, it seems as though Fury just needs to be wary of how he crashes into the clinch, and set up any attempts to close distance with feints and counters.
Secondly, Joshua has an ability to extend exchanges of punches which Wilder did not have, and in turn this makes it harder for Fury to dictate the action on his terms. This translates into Fury needing perhaps to fight on the backfoot to a greater extent than against Wilder.
So, how does Fury win? The answers lie in his performances against Chisora (in the second fight), Wilder, and Klitschko. For the first few rounds, where Joshua is at his most dangerous, Fury needs to offset any potential rhythm that AJ manages to find.
I think the best way that he can do this is actually found in the Klitschko fight, where he used feints and stance switches to negate the jab, and smothered at close range rather than engaging in a toe to toe slugfest; as opposed to the Wilder rematch where he shut off Wilder’s attack with forward pressure and an outstretched arm, which may leave him open to body shots against Joshua. Another benefit to Fury’s feints are that they draw Joshua’s guard up, and as was shown in the first Andy Ruiz fight, this leaves Joshua open to the body.
Once Joshua is biting on feints, covering up, Fury needs to invest in thumping shots to the body, such as those that he dropped Wilder with, and almost stopped Wallin with. This will deplete the gas tank of Joshua.
Fury also has a really good ability to get his back off the ropes, and out of corners, often with a jab and a lead hook, or a double lead hook and pivot motion. This will benefit him against Joshua, as it allows Fury to frustrate his opponent by forcing them into a game out cat and mouse. If Fury feels Joshua start to slow down, the next phase of attack will begin, and this will more closely resemble the Wilder rematch, and involve Fury steadily applying more pressure to his opponent, and fight him in spots that Joshua wants to rest in.
Fury will here look to smother Joshua, tiring him out further by leaning, smashing him to the body on the inside, and pushing him up against the ropes. This ultimately leads to a late stoppage for the Gypsy King.
Overall, I still favour Fury in this fight. I think his ability to frustrate opponents is something that Joshua has yet to come up against, whilst Fury has fought multiple power punching opponents.
It is a close fight, and far more competitive than either camp would lead you to believe, but I find it difficult to look past Fury’s gas tank, toughness and fight IQ, as well as his ability to switch stances and bamboozle Anthony Joshua.