Joshua eyes Wembley for Tyson Fury heavyweight showdown

By Sports Desk April 17, 2021

Anthony Joshua has declared Wembley would be an "ideal" venue for the first of his two fights against fellow heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury.

Promoter Eddie Hearn this week said the location of the upcoming fight had been agreed by both fighters, but he did not disclose where it would take place.

A deal is in place for the pair to fight twice before the end of the year, with Fury invited to sign off the arrangements after talks with Hearn in Las Vegas.

Joshua holds the IBF, WBA and WBO titles, while the unbeaten Fury is the WBC champion after dethroning Deontay Wilder last year.

Saudi Arabia has been mooted as a potential location for the fight and may still stage the first clash, even if Joshua would love to tackle Fury in London. He has previously fought both at Wembley Stadium and in the adjacent SSE Arena.

"I've signed my side of the deal," Joshua told ITV's Jonathan Ross show.

"We've sent him a good offer, one I'm sure he won't refuse. He wants the fight, no doubt about it, so do I and more than me and him, the whole public want it. I put my crystal ball out there and I say it's going to happen this year 100 per cent."

Joshua added, according to several UK newspapers: "I'm pretty sure it'll be this year. End of July, early August.

"Where? That's what's the delay, because of this pandemic. We want to have people coming to the venue. It's just finding the right location. For me, Wembley would be ideal."

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said last week that the English capital is ready to host the lucrative fight, despite the restrictions in the country amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A number of pilot events are taking place with spectators, in the hope crowds can return to normal capacity levels in the near future.

Snooker's 17-day World Championship began in Sheffield on Saturday with indoor crowds limited initially to one-third capacity, but there are plans for a full house come the final in May. Hearn's father, Barry Hearn, is the chairman of World Snooker.

Fury's most recent three bouts have all been staged in Las Vegas while Joshua reclaimed his titles from Andy Ruiz Jr in a rematch held in Saudi Arabia in December 2019.

The 2012 Olympic gold medal winner fought once in 2020, with Joshua beating Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena in front of a restricted number of fans.

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  • Joshua v Usyk: AJ aims to keep it simple as Fury looms large over capital clash Joshua v Usyk: AJ aims to keep it simple as Fury looms large over capital clash

    Anthony Joshua has no intention of making things "too complicated" when he defends his world heavyweight titles against the unbeaten Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday.  

    The reigning IBF, WBA and WBO champion looked in excellent condition as he weighed in on Friday, tipping the scales at 240 pounds – a fraction lighter than for his previous fight, against Kubrat Pulev, at the end of 2020.

    Joshua was always going to have a height and weight advantage coming into an intriguing contest at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this weekend, even if Usyk did come in at a career-high 221.25 pounds.

    It is just a third outing at heavyweight for the Ukrainian, who was previously the undisputed champion at cruiserweight before moving up. His boxing abilities should not be doubted, considering his achievements as an amateur as well, but after taking on Chazz Witherspoon and Dereck Chisora previously, he is about to jump back in at the deep end nearly a year on from his last bout.

    The physical differences further increase the intrigue over how each man will approach the occasion, as two fighters who struck gold at the London Olympics in 2012 meet in the English capital.

    "It's called a boxing match for a reason. I love the sweet science. I will display my boxing skills, but I won't make it too complicated in there," Joshua said at the final news conference.

    This, of course, was not the fight the 31-year-old had expected to be next on his agenda. A deal was in place to take on Tyson Fury to reveal a new undisputed champion, but the holder of the WBC title has been ordered to take on Deontay Wilder for a third time instead.

    That trilogy bout takes place on October 9 in Las Vegas, a hurdle Fury will likely have to clear if we are to see the all-British showdown that has been teased for too long, amid lengthy negotiations, social media sparring and arbitration hearings.

    Before then, though, Joshua must focus on the task at hand. Usyk, the mandatory challenger for the WBO strap, is not an opponent to be taken lightly either, even if he weighed considerably less on the scales.

    The result is all that matters for Joshua, who knows just what is at stake. Unlike his opponent, Usyk has little to lose – apart from that unblemished record in the pros – and everything to gain, having received the chance to spring the type of surprise that would seismically alter the heavyweight landscape.

    The pair took part in a tense head-to-head showdown after weighing in, though they did share a handshake and a smile before parting ways. Respectful during the build-up, it will be down to business when they next come face to face with each other.

    RECENT HISTORY

    Joshua finished an otherwise quiet 2020 in style, stopping the ever-willing but overmatched Pulev inside nine rounds in his solitary outing during the year. A small number of fans were present inside Wembley Arena amid the coronavirus pandemic, but there will be far more in attendance at the impressive home of Spurs this weekend.

    That Pulev bout came just over a year after Joshua's revenge mission against Andy Ruiz Jr, when he boxed intelligently to regain the titles he had lost against the same opponent midway through 2019 in a stunning upset on his American debut.

    As for Usyk, he came through a gruelling physical test against Chisora, winning their October 2020 meeting by unanimous decision on the scorecards.

    Chisora, who was left "gutted" by the final verdict, was asked in the aftermath if he felt his opponent had shown him enough to be able to beat one of the big names in the division, to which he replied: "No, because in the heavyweight game, you have to fight, not box."

    TALE OF THE TAPE 

    ANTHONY JOSHUA

    Age: 31
    Height: 6ft 6ins (198cm)
    Weight: 240lbs
    Reach: 82ins
    Professional record: 24-1 (22 KOs)
    Major career titles: IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight

    OLEKSANDR USYK

    Age: 34
    Height: 6ft 3ins (191cm) 
    Weight: 221.25lbs
    Reach: 78ins  
    Professional record: 18-0 (13 KOs) 
    Major career titles: IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO cruiserweight

  • If I were fighting King Kong then I'd give it a go, says Joshua If I were fighting King Kong then I'd give it a go, says Joshua

    Anthony Joshua is relishing the chance to fight Oleksandr Usyk in London and said he would "give it a go" against King Kong for the love of the sport.

    The IBF, WBA and WBO belts will be on the line when the Ukrainian faces the heavyweight champion at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.

    Usyk came to Thursday's pre-fight media event dressed like The Joker, but the formalities were very professional as the pair faced off and shook hands in a respectful, if intense, manner.

    Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Usyk, 34, might be facing a height and weight disadvantage, but Joshua has plenty of admiration for a fighter he is excited to face.

    "I wasn't on the amateur scene long enough to know much about Oleksandr but when I turned professional I did a lot of research and I love the Ukrainian style and the Ukrainian people," he said.

    "He was fighting 10 or 12 years as an amateur before he went to the Olympics and worlds, so he is probably happy to be in this position – the cream always rises to the top.

    "I love throwback fighters. I do watch a lot of boxing and I don't fight good people just to get respect.

    "If you tell me I was fighting King Kong, I would give it a go. This is my job. I'm going to work. It's the best days of my life.

    "I work hard to make sure boxing is really respected, and I pay them back by putting in a lot of work in the gym.

    "I'm not an easy fight for anyone, I like fighting. God has blessed me, shown me the path to get into boxing. I'm here, blessed, happy and don't take it for granted."

    Usyk's promoter Alexander Krassyuk described Joshua as "the best in the division" with "the heart of a warrior", although he warned the Briton he was facing the toughest fight of his career.

    "I can do a lot more," Usyk said through an interpreter. "I feel fine, and I look forward to this. I want to thank the team and Eddie Hearn, and I'm grateful this is happening on Saturday.

    "Every fight makes history and I think me and Anthony will make another step in history, something that people will be talking about, remember and will be watching on television."

  • Joshua v Usyk: Ukrainian aiming to follow Klitschko brothers, Povetkin and Valuev Joshua v Usyk: Ukrainian aiming to follow Klitschko brothers, Povetkin and Valuev

    Oleksandr Usyk will aim to make the most of his opportunity on Saturday, with the Ukrainian looking to upset the odds and dethrone Anthony Joshua in London. 

    Already holding the IBF, WBA and WBO titles, heavyweight Joshua appeared set for a hugely lucrative unification showdown with Tyson Fury, holder of the WBC belt, that would identify an undisputed champion in the division. 

    An arbitration hearing put paid to that plan, though, as Fury was ordered to face Deontay Wilder for a third time, denying boxing fans the fight they desperately wanted to see. 

    However, Usyk is an intriguing prospect for Joshua to deal with. Dominant at cruiserweight before stepping up, the 34-year-old has the potential to cause problems, considering both his boxing skills and outstanding resume. 

    Britain may dominate right now, but fighters from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics have ruled the roost at different times, albeit with varying degrees of longevity.  

     

    VITALI KLITSCHKO

    The baton passed from the famed heavyweights of the 1990s to the coming generation when Lennox Lewis uncharacteristically slugged his way to victory over Vitali Klitschko in Los Angeles in June 2003. The last man standing from his era after comprehensively beating Mike Tyson, Lewis was given hell by "Dr Steelhammer" but managed to inflict enough damage for the challenger to be stopped on cuts after six gruelling rounds.

    Lewis never boxed again and Klitschko never lost again, winning 13 fights in succession either side of a four-year retirement. He lifted the WBC title and settled a family grudge by stopping Corrie Sanders in April 2004. He was never without the famous green belt in the ring up until he hung up his gloves in 2012 to focus full-time on a political career than now sees Vitali serving at the Mayor of Kyiv.

    WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO

    The younger Klitschko was the first eastern European to lift a heavyweight title in the 21st century when he twice floored Chris Byrd on the way to a unanimous decision to win the WBO belt in October 2000. Byrd became champion in his previous fight when, way down on the cards, Vitali withdrew on his stool due to a shoulder injury. It meant Vitali was returning a favour against Sanders, who demolished Wladimir over two harrowing rounds in March 2003.

    Another knockout loss followed a little over a year with the vacant WBO strap on the line against Lamon Brewster. At that stage, it was impossible to foresee the imperious dominance that would follow a second win over Byrd for the IBF and 18 successful defences. Closing out his career with losses to Fury and Joshua carried a heavy sense changing eras, as with his brother and Lewis a decade and a half earlier.

    NIKOLAI VALUEV

    All the men on this list could lay claim to the moniker of "Beast from the East" but none would be able to pull it off as well as the preposterously proportioned Valuev. Standing at 7ft and tipping the scales at over 300lbs, he became the tallest and heaviest heavyweight champion in history. Valuev's skills were akin to a rudimentary club fighter, but he was just far too big for most opponents to handle.

    Each of his two stints as WBA ruler began with prophetically forgettable points wins over John Ruiz and after a 2008 loss to a pot-shotting David Haye he walked away to a varied post-fight career. Like Klitschko he entered politics, winning election to the State Duma in Russia's 2011 parliamentary election. He also became an unlikely face of children's television in his homeland, presenting the long-running "Good Night, Little Ones!".

    SIARHEI LIAKHOVICH

    Liakhovich's period reign as WBO champion lasted seven months. The Belarusian won a unanimous decision win over Brewster in April 2006, despite taking a knee in the seventh. He was up on the cards when Shannon Briggs dramatically knocked him through the ropes during the closing seconds of his first defence. Briggs was the last American to get his hands on any portion of the heavyweight title before Wilder's WBC reign began in 2015. Two years earlier, the "Bronze Bomber" left Liakhovich quivering on the canvas after a terrifying first-round KO.

    OLEG MASKAEV

    Three months before Briggs' late show against Liakhovich, Maskaev battered one-time Lewis conqueror Hasim Rahman to defeat inside the final minute of their August 2006 rematch in Las Vegas. A product of the Soviet amateur system, Maskaev based himself in the US for the majority of his professional career. He was 37 by the time he ripped the WBC crown from Rahman and, after a successful defence against Okello Peter in Moscow, the Kazakh-born fighter was knocked out by Samuel Peter - the "Nigerian Nightmare" who was himself stopped by a returning Vitali Klitschko next time out.

    RUSLAN CHAGAEV

    If the WBA was a sofa, Chagaev would be the loose change they continue to find lurking between the cushions. He first won the organisation's belt with a majority decision win over Valuev in April 2007, although subsequent illness and injury led to him being declared "champion in recess". As such, the WBA belt was not on the line when his corner waved off a June 2009 shellacking at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko after nine rounds.

    The organisation then elected to install Chagaev not as its champion but number one challenger, and he dropped an August 2011 decision to Alexander Povetkin for the vacant belt. The story did not end there, however, as Chagaev and the unheralded Fres Oquendo were selected to box for the WBA's vacant "regular" title in July 2014. Almost two years and one competitive round later, Chagaev was knocked out by Lucas Browne, who then failed a drugs test. The Uzbek was given back his title, only to be stripped in July 2016 for failing to pay the WBA sanctioning fees for that already barely remembered Oquendo contest, seemingly ending the saga.

    SULTAN IBRAGIMOV

    Not one to linger like Chagaev, Russia's Sydney 2000 heavyweight silver medallist Ibragimov outpointed Briggs in his 22nd professional bout to lift the WBO belt in June 2007. Under the tutelage of Jeff Mayweather, he comfortably beat the great Evander Holyfield in his first defence. A unification showdown with Wladimir Klitschko was most notable for the Madison Square Garden crowd booing a safety-first affair. With that sole defeat, Ibragimov was gone, retiring in 2009 due to persistent injuries to his left hand.

    ALEXANDER POVETKIN

    Another decorated amateur, Povetkin won super-heavyweight gold at the 2004 Olympics and made four defences of the WBA title after beating Chagaev. To repeat a theme, all roads led to an uncompromising Klitschko, with Wladimir sending him to the canvas four times during a landslide Moscow triumph in October 2013. Failed drugs tests did little for Povetkin's wider reputation and put paid to a proposed meeting with Wilder.

    A promising start unravelled to a seventh-round stoppage when challenging Joshua in September 2018, although Povetkin sensationally recovered from two knockdowns to ice Dillian Whyte this year. After losing the rematch, the Russian announced his retirement at the age of 41.

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