After years of heavyweight boxing being declared as boring, the weight class is hotting up, as a clash between British champions Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua to unify the division looks set to take place this year.
The pair have become embroiled in a war of words on social media as anticipation rises at the prospect of a UK-based winner takes all world title clash. Last week, it was announced that Manchester Irish fighter Fury would have a rematch against Ukranian former world champion Wladimir Klitschko on home ground on July 9.
And after Watford-born Joshua won his IBF decider against America’s Charles Martin, all eyes are looking at the two champions going head to head to take all four heavyweight belts.
The probability is that Joshua is likely to face former champion David Haye, who is making his second bout comeback against Arnold Gjergjaj on May 21 before the 35-yearold faces Shannon Briggs.
With the Klitschko brothers dominating the sport for so long, former champions such as Lennox Lewis complained of a lull at the top as interest increased further down the weight classes.
But the media spotlight on the outspoken Fury and Olympic champion Joshua seems to have reignited interest in the top weight division. The 27-year-old ‘Gipsy King’, whose family come from Galway and Belfast, publicly stated that he bet £1,000 at the bookies that Joshua would lose against Martin.
Immediately after the fight he tweeted: “So AJ gets a belt, but he looked slow and ponderous, and still looked like a bodybuilder. Let me slay the lamb.”
In response, Joshua quipped: “I’m going to walk through Fury when he’s ready,” said Joshua. “I mean business and I’m here to stay.”
He will be looking to unify the division by taking the WBO, IBO and The Ringmagazine belts off of Fury. He is also only the second boxer in history, after Joe Frazier, to win a professional world heavyweight title while still reigning as the Olympic champion at the top weight.
“I’m only quarter of the way there,” Joshua told Sky Sports Box Office.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done.
“I’ve got people like David Haye and Tyson Fury calling me out so I need to keep improving. Every fight gets better and better. I want to give value for money and I appreciate the ongoing support of the fans.”
Haye, one of the sport’s ‘Mr Nice Guys’ congratulated Joshua on his win, saying he was ‘proud’ to see an Olympic champion win a world title.
“It was the smoothest and easiest way I’ve seen someone win a world title. Potential-wise, physically, technically, he looks like he’s doing everything right.”
He added that he would be likely to face Joshua before Fury, due to the 26- year-old’s promoter Eddie Hearn capitalising on what he feels ‘probably the biggest ever British heavyweight clash’. “Joshua will defend his title, he won’t fight Tyson Fury in the next two fights,”
Haye told Sportsweek. “Fury has his work cut out with Wladimir Klitschko – he needs to worry about that before anyone else.
“Tyson Fury is very difficult to deal with. I can’t see him and his team doing a deal with Eddie Hearn [Joshua’s promoter].
“I believe Anthony Joshua wants two defences. Ideally we both win our fights and square off for probably the biggest ever British heavyweight clash.”
But Hearn has stated that the former champion can wait while Joshua goes for glory and chases Fury for his belts.
“I think that’s unrealistic, as much as Haye wants the fight, he knows it’s a proper fight and that fight is going to build and grow,” Hearn told Sky Sports News.
“Tyson Fury is our pick before that because he has got the belts, the other two belts, and I think a unification fight has to be a priority.
“Haye against Joshua is a massive fight, probably realistically next spring or summer but Fury could be one for 2016.”
“I’ve chatted to Peter Fury about it, we know how big the fight is and both guys, both camps, really fancy their chances in the fight. So I think that’s a fight you will see sooner rather than later.
“We’re going to go in June or July, then Klitschko-Fury is on July 9 and if Tyson wins that fight he will be looking to go November time and so will we.
“Britain has two world champions who I know for a fact will step in the ring with each other and put all the belts on the line.
“Now when was the last time we had a British world heavyweight champion before these two?
“Now we’ve got two and a chance for a unification fight that I think will never ever happen again in British boxing.
“It’s great times and may they both keep on winning for as long as possible because one day they will meet and that will be an event.
“I know we always say it is the biggest event of all time and we’ve had a few lately but that will blow the socks off.”