Anthony Joshua is ready to knock-out both Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury next year, describing 2018 as potentially the "grand finale" of his boxing career.
The IBF, WBA and IBO heavyweight champion of the world pulled no punches in confirming both fighters are on his radar over the next 12 months, with the 28-year-old being more than happy to settle the trash talk, where he knows best, in the ring.
He said: “It’s interesting, yeah, there’s a lot of talk about 2018 in my career. It’s seems like this is the grand finale.”
Confidence is sky high for Joshua after what has been a stellar 2017, best remembered for his famous 11th round dethroning of Wladimir Klitschko at a sell-out Wembley in April, before he defended his IBF and WBA heavyweight titles last month, courtesy of a 10th round stoppage win over gutsy French man Carlos Takam.
That victory brought Joshua’s record to 20-0 and the Londoner’s stock couldn’t be higher, whether he’s laced up for battle in the ring or on duty with his growing commercial sponsors and partners, which include Under Armour, Beats, Sky Sports and energy drink Lucozade.
While Joshua’s rise to world superstardom has gathered pace, it’s his close knit entourage who give him a reality check when needed, while promoter Eddie Hearn, typically, works night and day behind the scenes to bring various pieces of the boxing puzzle together.
From a British perspective, the fight everyone wants to see in the next 12 months is Joshua going up against the currently-retired Fury, a man who has not fought in two years due to his drugs ban and has ballooned to 25 stone in weight.
Although there’s a long way to go before initial terms could even be laid out, it’s not stopped Fury from believing he can take down ‘fraud’ Joshua.
Last week Fury recently penned an open letter on Twitter, deriding AJ, saying that he would “deal with Anthony Joshua in the same fashion” he dismissed Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
That came days after Joshua called Fury “fat”, after the ‘Gypsy King’ had branded him “useless”.
Joshua is normally not tempted to enter a war of words on social media – but even he felt like he had to deal with that onslaught.
Speaking to Sport360° at the iconic Burj Al Arab ahead of his participation in the Dubai Fitness Challenge, Joshua said: “I feel like he says a lot of negative things about me, time and time again.
“I try to be professional but remember this is a fighting sport and you have to meet fire with fire now and again.
“Sometimes if a dog barks at you so many times, the other dog needs to bite back and make sure the other dog puts his tail between his legs. And that’s what you have to do with Tyson Fury sometimes. And that’s all it was, I just had to bite back.
“I’m not one of these dogs that stay in the garden barking for hours, I make my noise – and that’s it – until we fight I don’t need to be hollering and yelling for days and for months. That’s not what I like to do. I address the situation and I put it into the back of my mind. I address what’s relevant.”
Meanwhile, Wilder, the American boasting a 39-0 record (38KOs) goaded AJ on Instagram – asking him to “fight or shut up”. Joshua will be all too happy to end the 32-year-old’s unbeaten record.
“Deontay Wilder is a potential name in the mix. 100 per cent. It’s something that we’re taking time to do and actually doing right now.
“I had a fight the week before him and then he fought [a brutal first-round knockout of Bermane Stiverne] and he mentioned I’m running scared.
“I had spent the last three-and-a-half months training for this last guy, so there was no talk of me ever fighting you up until he had a fight.
“I didn’t understand where he was coming from when he said he was running scared.
“I just thought he must want to fight so he must have made an offer, which he hadn’t, so we’re just taking it upon ourselves to see the landscape and the opportunities of making this fight a reality.
“He is definitely a possible opponent for 2018.”
Joseph Parker is another name in the mix but Joshua doesn’t seem overly concerned with the New Zealander who holds the WBO belt.
For him, the warm climates of the UAE and the company of a handful of friends is the perfect place to reflect on the season and look forward to the next 12 months.
And everything’s in his favour right now, with Matchroom boss Barry Hearn predicting he’ll become a billionaire before too long.
He adds: “I want to have a good fighting career and I want to enjoy what I’m doing. It is nice to know that I can give a lot more. I’m not a stage where my body’s packing up on me. I’ve still got a lot more energy. So it is nice, I’m willing to give a lot more of myself.”
Joshua has a temperament to deal with the multimillion deals, the endorsements but without his close-knit entourage behind him, he knows it would be difficult to keep on track with everyone wanting a piece of him.
“That’s why I’m like, 2018, even though there’s a lot of talk – in reality, isn’t going to be like Joseph Parker, Wilder and Tyson Fury all in one year.
“Anthony Joshua has to face all of them but what’s Wilder’s plans after he fights Anthony Joshua?
“Everyone’s following my career but everyone else is managing their own career how is best for them.”