Anthony Joshua has refused to rule out the prospect of a world heavyweight title clash with British rival Tyson Fury despite the former champion’s travails.
Fury has not fought since beating Wladimir Klitschko to win the IBF, WBA and WBO titles in December 2015 after being handed a drugs ban and then being stripped of his licence by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC).
Earlier this month, the 29-year-old Fury said he would not reapply to the BBBofC for the right to fight again, further reducing the chances of a return.
But Joshua, who defends his IBF and WBA titles against late replacement Carlos Takam in Cardiff on Saturday, has left the door open to a fight with Fury.
“What was his (Fury’s) fighting weight — 18 stone (114 kilograms)? Even if he comes back at 22 stone, (George) Foreman came back bigger when he was in his prime,” Joshua said.
“If he wants to fight and gets his licence at 30 or 40 stone — if he wants to get in the ring and he shows he can move about and control that weight, people will watch him.
“But if he comes back at that weight and he’s getting into trouble against journeymen, then people won’t be interested. So it’s how he performs at his new weight.”
Joshua is aiming to unify the heavyweight titles.
A fight with WBO champion Joseph Parker – who beat Fury’s cousin Hughie in Manchester last month – is set for early next year, as well as a WBA mandatory bout before a prospective clash with reigning WBC king Deontay Wilder.
Joshua shook up the sport with the manner of his win over Klitschko and his promoter Eddie Hearn stressed his charge would not accept unreasonable demands for the sake of unifying the belts.
Hearn said: “We wouldn’t be held to ransom for a belt. (Kubrat) Pulev or Takam are fine for his defence of the title after Klitschko, but if it was someone like (Fres) Oquendo, we could say, ‘no-one wants to watch that fight’.
“The aim is to fight three times next year – ideally in March, April or summer then December. In a perfect world, two of the three fights would be for the additional belts – in any order.”
For a sport built on personality and individualism, modern boxing has its fair share of stereotypes.
Take for example, the fashion. There’s a discernible style to most world champion pugilists, from the slick shades and jewellery to the designer footwear and clothing.
It all works to form part of a celebration of their achievements in the sport, a statement to trumpet their success. And one large part of the stereotypical ensemble is the watch.
Now, the watch comes in many shapes, sizes and styles but they all work to illustrate flamboyance and, ultimately, wealth. Floyd Mayweather is perhaps the most obvious endorsement of this given some of the quite ludicrously iced-out timepieces he’s flaunted on social media.
But the watch also creates a conventional image which draws a certain slant about that fighter – bold, brash, arrogant, cocky and any other exaggerated trait you want to use.
So, when two-weight world champion Badou Jack sat down in a hushed Jumeirah Beach Hotel cafe for this interview with a striking diamond-encrusted Rolex on his wrist, the predetermined profile was created.
But over the course of two days following the Muslim boxer during his Dubai leg of a goodwill tour of the Middle East, visiting boxing gyms and holding talks in schools, he broke boxing stereotypes, his ritzy Rolex a source of contrast.
The watch, incidentally was a gift from his promoter – Floyd Mayweather – following his first world title success in 2015 after beating Anthony Dirrell, and while it feels a little detached given the placid personality of its owner, it’s a prideful emblem of the Swede’s success.
Indeed, two years on from that WBC super-middleweight win and Jack has amassed a CV which includes some of the toughest men at 168lbs, most notably British pair George Groves and James DeGale.
But it’s after blasting through another Brit in WBA champ Nathan Cleverly in his August light-heavyweight debut on the undercard of Mayweather’s mega clash with Conor McGregor, that you might say his time is now – though the audience has been a little slow to recognise that.
“I like it that they’re overlooking me still. That means there is no pressure on me when I step in the ring,” Jack says. “People will realise that I’m the real deal. I’ve fought five world champions in a row; Dirrell, George Groves – he wasn’t a champion when we fought but he is now – Lucian Bute was a former world champ, DeGale is a world champion and an Olympic gold medallist, and Cleverley was a two-time champion.
“I fought them back-to-back, not even the superstars, Triple G (Gennady Golovkin) or Canelo (Saul Alvarez), have fought the calibre I have back-to-back like that.
“I’m going to continue like that.”
The Rolex isn’t just a source of contrast in terms of personality as it also represents the shift his personal life has taken. Unlike two years ago, time has become its own currency.
A first-time father to a daughter last year with a son on the way in 2018, the soon-to-be 34 year old isn’t sure how long he’s going to continue in the sport. A devoted family man to his wife and child, Jack has one eye on life after boxing with Dubai a future new home.
With the impressive resume of a two-weight world champ, Jack wants to cash in and challenge himself against the toughest fighters.
“Right now, I’m trying to save as much as possible, save it, invest it, be smart with it and get out boxing healthy,” he explains.
“I don’t want to be punch drunk, I don’t want the sport to retire me so you’ve got to have good defence, good trainers, good people around you and be smart with your money.”
He adds: “Ultimately, I want to fight the best in the division, (Adonis) Stevenson, (Sergey) Kovalev and whoever else is out there. I know Adonis has a mandatory but hopefully they can give him (Eleider Alvarez) a little step-aside money so me and him can get it on.
“I know he’d rather fight me than his mandatory because I’m a much bigger name. Hopefully we can make it happen. He’s holding that belt hostage right now, so I’m gonna free it from him.”
As far as initiating trash talking is concerned, that right there is Jack at his peak and while his friend and agent Amer Abdallah would like to see more of that, it’s not something which comes naturally.
“I can do the trash talk if I have to. I’ll never start it but if someone talks to me then I’ll talk back. But that’s my style. I like to show in the ring that I can fight,” he says. “You can say I’m a nice guy but I like to show my nasty side in the ring.
“Some people say you have to talk trash to sell a fight but look at Anthony Joshua.
“He’s a humble, nice guy. Even Andre Ward – that’s more my personality.”
He adds laughing: “You can call me boring but I’ll still beat you up.”
– Message of peace –
While Jack is no stranger to pain, recent tragic events in the city he’s called home since 2010 caused considerable hurt.
As a resident of Las Vegas, the news 58 people lost their lives, and a further 549 were injured, following the shooting earlier this month hit hard and it’s part of the reason for his visit to the Middle East as he aims to spread the word of peace.
“People think of it as a crazy party town but to me, I have a quiet life. It’s a great city for families It’s just the strip with all the casinos but other than that, it’s a beautiful city,” he explains.
“It’s crazy. I was watching CNN all night with my wife and she was really scared. She said how she didn’t want to go to the strip no more. It made me think that it’s not safe here but it’s not just that; it’s all the racism, all the stuff going on with Trump, it’s just really sad to see.”
Abdallah, a kickboxing champion himself, articulates further.
“We don’t stereotype every single Roman Catholic as a paedophile because of some of their priests or every single Roman Catholic as a mass murderer as Adolf Hitler was.
“You can’t stereotype 1.8 billion Muslims because of the less than one per cent of people who fly under the Muslim flag.
“Badou preaches peace, he lives like a peaceful man. This is our platform to be able to actually tell the world that our race is humanity, our religion and political preference is freedom and mankind.
“The bottom line is, evil is evil, whether you’re white, black, Christian, Muslim, atheist whatever it may be. Peace is peace.”
Whether it’s Jack and his watch, or some western perceptions of Islam, more often than not stereotypes are wrong – a takeaway point for us all.
Adonis obviously. Maybe someone we don’t like. A racist fighter? A scumbag, Kovalev has made some racist comments so maybe him.
Roy Jones was one of my favourite fighters growing up but I’d never want to fight him.
Terence Crawford at No1. As far as skills Vasyl Lomachenko he would be but he hasn’t fought the best, although that’s not his fault. Rigondeaux, Canelo and Triple G – I thought he beat Canelo – but I don’t know the order but Crawford is number one.
I was there for his fight in June. I’m not a big UFC fan but I was there to do some interviews and stuff. He was a boxer at first so we’ve trained in the same gym. He was not on that level then, I was in the Olympics and World Champs then and he just started but he’s a good fighter.
I think he’s a national Swedish amateur boxing champion so he can punch, he’s a great fighter and he’s a great guy, too.
Rio Ferdinand took the sporting world by surprise on Tuesday by announcing his attempt at a professional boxing career. The former Manchester United and England defender has included boxing as part of his fitness regime for a few years, and is now set to go one step further.
Here’s a look at five other stars who made a switch to boxing after excelling in other sports.
Given he is the son of a former boxer, Mundine’s move into the ring was largely unexpected. Having conquered the NRL, he stepped into the ring in 2000 and has amassed an impressive 47-8 record and held the WBA super middleweight title for five years between 2003 and 2008 as well as the IBO middleweight strap. His most famous victory was over former pound-for-pound king ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley in 2013.
Rugby’s man of many talents made his pro debut in 2009, beating Garry Gurr via TKO. The two-time World Cup winner has gone to win a further six bouts at heavyweight, with two knockouts. Williams has claimed boxing has made him a “mentally tougher” sportsman as he’s managed to balance both his sporting loves.
Following in the bootsteps of Sonny Bill Williams, Cooper fought on the undercard of his friend in 2013 beating Barry Dunnett at cruiserweight via a first round knockout. The mercurial fly-half now boasts a 3-0 record having despatched Aussies Warren Tresidder and Jack McInnes, although has received criticism for the quality of his opponents who have either been no-hopers or washed-up veterans.
The former England all-rounder enjoyed success in his one and only bout – beating American Richard Dawson after being knocked down in the second round – but it was branded it a “a circus” and “laughing stock”. Flintoff’s celebrity status ensured his fight received considerably more publicity than other, more seasoned, British fighters.
With her figure skating career in tatters after the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan in the lead up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, Harding took to the ring in 2002 in a celebrity boxing event before turning pro in 2003 on the undercard of a Mike Tyson fight. Harding lost a split decision against Samantha Browning but fought six more times in the space of just 16 months finishing with a 4-3-0 record as asthma forced her to retire.