Anthony Joshua Opens Up On Sparring Tyson Fury: ‘He Couldn’t Handle Me - I Whupped Him’
"He couldn't even handle me back then," Anthony Joshua tells SPORTbible, shaking his head as he recalls the first time he and Tyson Fury traded punches.
The two Brits are set to clash this year in a mega-money showdown to decide the best heavyweight on the planet. But back in 2010, they fought for free in a sparring session that left budding pro Fury seriously impressed by the unknown amateur.
"Watch out for that name, Anthony Joshua, he is one prospect for the future," said Fury at the time. So when we caught up with AJ via Zoom (for the launch of his #JDChampsHonours campaign) we had to ask: Did you learn anything from that spar that will help solve the Fury puzzle in 2021?
"I'd only been boxing about six months," recalls Joshua. "I'm dealing with a professional here, someone who's well-established, and I jumped in the ring as a complete novice.
"Imagine if you, yourself, walked into the gym today - and six months later, you're sparring a Daniel Dubois or that type of heavyweight.
"And I whupped him! I peppered him. He couldn't handle me. And that was back then.
"So regardless of what he says or what he thinks he can do, I'm going to put a full stop after that sentence - I'm gonna be the one to carry on this story. Because this is me now: bigger, better, stronger, faster and more confident."
Fury admitted that a 20-year-old Joshua rocked him with an uppercut during that infamous sparring session, saying: "He came out at me for three rounds and he gave me a beating - I'm not going to deny it."
A lot has changed in the 11 years since, however. Both have become world champions and gained global fame. Joshua suffered a first defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr, later avenged in dominant style; Fury got up from the canvas to draw with Deontay Wilder, then blitzed the American in a 2020 rematch.
That leaves Joshua and Fury alone at the top of the tree. Safe to say when they do clash, it'll be for a bigger prize than the Rolex watch Fury offered to any amateur who could knock him out back in 2010.
Inevitably, for two big men from the same country, of a similar age - but with contrasting personalities - bad blood is inevitable. The mischievous Fury tends to swap between praising AJ and insulting him (with an emphasis on the latter of late). But in Joshua's mind, is it personal between the pair?
"It's everything," he says simply. "He's my enemy. He's the person I need to dethrone... Just put it this way: I have my kingdom and he has his. And we're coming to take everything he has. That's how it is.
"I look at it from a point of view of war. If you watch my fights there's very few people that I've really embraced: Wladimir Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin - and Andy Ruiz as well, to a degree.
"You never see me shaking hands with Dillian [Whyte], you never see me shaking hands with [Dominic] Breazeale, with [Eric] Molina. None of these guys, because this is war.
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"So this is a grudge match. This is a sport. This is everything wrapped into one. This is warfare."
Thanks for coming :boom: pic.twitter.com/zvDVXPNLwK
- Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) December 13, 2020
Safe to say the 31-year-old isn't in denial about the magnitude of a fight that would go down as by far the biggest ever in British boxing history.
But in other ways, both fighters are winners in life through the sport. Both have escaped a sometimes troubled background to find their calling, plus fame and fortune, through their fists.
It isn't so easy for the next generation, however, with the pandemic closing amateur gyms across Britain and squeezing the life out of the grassroots of the sport.
In the aftermath of his ninth-round demolition of Kubrat Pulev in December, Joshua announced he was starting a fund and giving "substantial financial backing" from his own pocket to help save amateur boxing. Vital money, particularly after boxing was not included in the government's £300 million bailout for sport in November.
Asked if he could put into words how boxing helped shape his life when he was a young man, Joshua praised not only the physical discipline and competition - but the character-building quality of mixing with people from every possible background.
"Boxing is a door that's always open," he says. "It's weird because with [elite] football, tennis, any other sport - to get on to the premises, it's gonna take a lot of messages, emails, verifications.
"But with boxing, the doors are open to the public! You can walk in there and you can meet an ex-British champion - an ex-world champion - giving you advice about life, boxing, contracts; about everything.
"And for me when I was younger, it was such an honour to have the older generation at my gym, giving us young kids so much wisdom about life, decisions and what it really takes to achieve.
"Also being among different people from different communities, religion, ethnicities. All of that is combined into an environment where everyone's trying to achieve a goal to be No 1. It's just so much character-building in one place."
Joshua - already an Olympic gold medallist and a two-time world champion - may have the biggest, most definitive fights of his career right around the corner.
But if he remembers the lessons from his start in the sport - and if the reported millions he's already donated can help save amateur clubs that are on their knees - he can go into those fights knowing that his legacy boxing is already set. As Joshua has used his wealth and his success to start a movement to help save the sport, that once saved him.
JD & Anthony Joshua launched #JDChampsHonours, an empowering campaign that shines a light on those who made a difference in their communities in 2020. For more information & details of all the winners please visit www.jdsports.co.uk/page/champs-honours
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