Anthony Joshua is adamant neither he nor Tyson Fury are overlooking their respective “banana skin” opponents as anticipation builds towards a potential showdown between the two world heavyweight champions next year.
It is understood Joshua’s defence of his WBA, IBF and WBO crowns against Kubrat Pulev has been pencilled in for December 12 at London’s O2 Arena while Fury, the WBC champion, is committed to a third bout with Deontay Wilder.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn and Fury himself have already confirmed an initial agreement is in place for a blockbuster two fights between the British pair next year provided they avoid upset defeats in their next contests.
Joshua knows from bitter experience that nothing can be taken for granted after last year’s loss to Andy Ruiz Jr which sent shockwaves through the sport and although that was avenged, the Watford fighter is focused on Pulev.
Pulev has won his last eight fights since suffering the only defeat of his professional career to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, while Wilder’s explosive power is well-renowned after amassing 41 stoppages in his 42-1 record.
Asked who has the sterner test, Joshua told the PA news agency: “We’ve got to put them on an equal playing field because if I say ‘I’ve got the bigger test’ or ‘he’s got the bigger test’, you never know what’s going to happen.
“They’re both banana skin fights. It’s like ‘get past this one then there’s the big one next’, so this one is just as important as the big one.
“When the time’s right we’ll fight. We’re keen but I’ve got Kubrat Pulev first which is a mandatory defence, which I have to do. Once I get past that I’m a free agent.
“I’m going to say we’ll fight next year but everything else that comes with it, I’ve just got to put to the back of my mind and just focus on Kubrat Pulev. Once I get past him, hopefully Fury will be the next one in line.”
The path towards an undisputed heavyweight title fight had one obstacle removed when Dillian Whyte suffered a shock defeat to Alexander Povetkin last month. Had Whyte won, he would have been mandated to fight Fury next February.
But former world super-middleweight world champion Carl Froch revealed he was sent a direct message on Instagram by Fury, who allegedly cast doubt on a fight with Joshua going ahead.
Joshua, promoting the release of a co-created capsule collection of easy-wear pieces with Hugo Boss, said: “I listened to an interview the other week and (Fury) said that ‘we need to make the fight and stop messing around’.
“But I thought we agreed the fight? Then he said if Dillian wins he’s going to vacate the belt. I just think he’s got a lot of things going on in his life that he says things that don’t really add up.
“I respect him, I don’t really know him but I respect him as a human. I could continue to talk but the best talking will be done in the ring. It’s the best place to let our gloves do the talking.”
Joshua was pictured in a knee brace while attending a Black Lives Matter event earlier in the summer but he revealed he is back in training and enjoying it as he prepares for Pulev.
Joshua said: “It’s enjoyable at the minute and as the fight gets closer I just want it to stay like this, I don’t it to become a stressful period in my life.
“I’m actually enjoying training and they do say a happy fighter makes a good fighter.”