With both parties explicitly outlining their intentions on numerous occasions, it appears as if the colossal all-British heavyweight unification bout between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury is now more of a when than an if.
Sportsmail reported in February that the first draft of the fight contract had been exchanged between both camps, with only minor issues to be ironed out, including who will appear first on the billing and the order of the ring walks.
Fury raised doubts over the fight’s progress last week by both insisting talks had not progressed in the last 12 months and stating his lengthy absence from the ring would be less than ideal preparation for an event of such magnitude.
However, Fury’s father John then rather explicitly told Eddie Hearn to sign the contract over the weekend, while Joshua himself has since promised the fans the fight is on the way.
With negotiations therefore seemingly heading in the right direction, it’s perhaps now more apt to analyse the fight itself.
Though many are favouring Fury, it’s a tough pick for anyone to make, with both fighters claiming numerous high-profile scalps on the road to undisputed.
Sportsmail takes you through their last 10 opponents and some of their career highlights.
Anthony Joshua has suffered one defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr, which he avenged the following bout
Tyson Fury is undefeated in 31 fights and is coming off a career-best performance vs Wilder
First, it’s essential to take a broader look at their records in full.
Though Joshua turned professional five years later than Fury, he has fought just five times fewer, with the Gypsy King significantly less active in recent years, most prominently during the two-year gap between bouts against Wladamir Klitschko and Sefer Seferi.
Joshua boasts an impressive knockout ratio of 88 per cent, having won 22 of his 25 fights by stoppage, but his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr is a notable blemish on his record.
Fury is undoubtedly not as prolific a finisher, with a knockout percentage of just 68, though the 32-year-old can certainly punch, having alleviated the judges of their duties on 21 occasions.
The Gypsy King has also maintained his unbeaten record throughout his 31 fights, with no opponent yet to solve that awkward puzzle he presents.
Based on the records alone, you have to favour an unbeaten Fury.
Height: 6ft 6in
Record: 24 W, 1L, 0D
Knockouts: 22 (88%)
Undefeated fighters beaten: 6
Last fight: Pulev KO (Dec 2020)
Debut: October 2013
Height: 6ft 9in
Record: 30 W, 0L, 1D
Knockouts: 21 (68%)
Undefeated fighters beaten: 7
Last fight: Wilder TKO (Feb 2020)
Debut: December 2008
However, fights are not won just on records, and it’s naive to simply discount Joshua because of one bad night.
In fact, when you directly compare the their opposition, it’s certainly Joshua who has more high-profile names on his resume.
Even Eric Molina, who is perhaps the least fearsome on Joshua’s otherwise jam-packed last-10, took a certain Deontay Wilder nine rounds when they fought the year prior.
In addition to Molina, Joshua has seen off the challenges presented by Kubrat Pulev, Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker, Wladamir Klitschko and Andy Ruiz Jr – all serious operators.
Fury’s notable wins, on the other hand, come against just Deontay Wilder and Klitschko. Yes, Derek Chisora is a household name in the world of boxing, but with 10 defeats on his record, it’s a fight Fury would always be expected to win.
The Gypsy King does have the valid excuse of a few comeback fights following his lengthy absence, but the likes of Joey Abell, Christian Hammer, Sefer Seferi, Francesco Pianeta and Tom Schwartz just do not compare.
Fury fans may indeed argue that while Joshua has the opponents in numbers, it’s the Gypsy King who has the more impressive victories.
Below is a brief look at each of their opponents and the records they held at the time of the match-up.
Kubrat Pulev – 28W, 1L 0D
Andy Ruiz Jr – 33 W, 1L, 0D
Andy Ruiz Jr – 32 W, 1L, OD
Alexander Povetkin – 34 W, 1L
Joseph Parker – 24W, 0L, 0D
Carlos Takam – 35L, 3L, 1D
Wladamir Klitschko – 64W, 4L, 0D
Eric Molina – 25W, 3L, 0D
Dominic Breazeale – 17W, 0L, 0D
Charles Martin 23W, 0L, 1D
Deontay Wilder – 42W, 0L, 1D
Otto Wallin – 20W, 0L, 0D
Tom Schwartz – 24W, 0L, OD
Deontay Wilder – 42W, 0L, 0D
Francesco Pianeta – 35W, 4L, 1D
Sefer Seferi – 23W, 1L, 0D
Wladamir Klitschko – 64W, 3L, 0D
Christian Hammer – 17W, 3L, 0D
Derek Chisora – 20 W, 4L, 0D
Joey Abell – 29W 7L, 0D
What’s noticeable is that of Fury’s last five opponents, three have been undefeated fighters. However, it’s the caliber of their respective opposition that is troublesome.
Otto Wallin, who has now claimed an impressive win over Dominic Breazeale, had fought no-one of note prior to his fight with Fury, while Tom Schwartz still hasn’t claimed a win to talk about.
Even Deontay Wilder, who is certainly a top-level, world class fighter, has a pair of wins over Luis Ortiz as his only truly notable victories, while the less said about Francesco Pianeta the better.
Meanwhile, Joshua’s last five opponents have all come in tough match-ups.
Joseph Parker was the undefeated WBO heavyweight champion at the time, while Alexander Povetkin – who had lost only to Klitschko – has since shown his prowess with a stunning knockout win over Dillian Whyte.
Meanwhile, Andy Ruiz – who Joshua only fought as a late replacement for a drug-failing Jarrell Miller – had lost just once in a controversial majority decision defeat to Joseph Parker, whereby most thought it was the Mexican who had won.
Joshua was also forced into a late change of opponent when he fought Carlos Takam, with Kubrat Pulev pulling out with injury.
He would finally get his hands on Pulev in his most recent bout, however, in what was a mandatory defence of his IBF strap.
Of course, we cannot gloss over Klitschko, who both men have beaten in arguably their standout wins. More on that below.
For now, we take you through some of Joshua and Fury’s most notable wins
Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev
Anthony Joshua floored Kubrat Pulev four times in a nine-round stoppage win in December
We start with Anthony Joshua and his most recent fight against IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.
The Bulgarian had lost just once prior to the fight in a one-sided knockout defeat to Wladamir Klitschko, and he was certainly touted to put up a good effort, with his solid chin, high level of experience and boxing skill enough to trouble most.
With Joshua coming off a cautious rematch win over Andy Ruiz Jr, in which he showed a great level of boxing ability, the intrigue was around how the champion would approach the fight.
Would Joshua show signs of old by storming his opponent and looking for the early knockout, or would he continue to exhibit his new, more measured approach?
In the end, we saw a bit of both, with Joshua arguably putting in the most complete performance of his career.
He was never troubled at any point of a highly one-sided fight, in which Pulev was floored twice in the third round and twice in the ninth.
After an explosive third round, Joshua took his foot off the gas, regained his composure and surgically finished the job in Klitschko-esque fashion.
He showed skill, stamina and a fearsome right hand, and he looked more ready than ever for Tyson Fury.
Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder 2
Tyson Fury floored Deontay Wilder twice before the American’s corner threw in the towel
We now move onto Tyson Fury’s stunning win over Deontay Wilder back in February of last year.
The pair had controversially drawn their first encounter, after Fury had rushed back into top-level action following just two swift warm-ups against Pianeta and Seferi, which came two-and-a-half years on from his win over Klitschko.
Fury had exhibited his skill, heart and chin in their first encounter, as he bamboozled Wilder, who was totally outclassed – other than two moments of magic, in which he sent the Gypsy King crashing to the canvas on both occasions.
The Brit left everyone – including Wilder – startled as he arose from a brutal knockdown in the 12th round, in which he survived to secure the draw.
It was a totally different affair in the second bout, as Fury turned boxer to aggressor, as he dominated a Wilder devoid of any ideas. This time it was the American who was floored twice, before his corner threw the towel in and ended the fight.
Fury has a long-standing reputation of a master boxer and mover, but this was the first time we had ever truly since his ability to come forward and both out-box and out-punch his opponent.
He was too slick and too powerful for Wilder, who had no answers – other than a barrage of subsequent excuses, of course.
With the stunning victory over Wilder, Fury moved – in most people’s eyes – to the top of the heavyweight division while sending a fierce warning to Joshua.
Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz 2
Anthony Joshua put in a boxing masterclass in his rematch win over Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr
Though not the most eye-catching of victories, this was without a doubt the most important fight of Anthony Joshua’s career.
Joshua, who was making his US debut at the time, was expected to walk through Ruiz in their first bout, with the Mexican a late replacement for Jarrell Miller, who had failed a drug test.
The Brit had even let Ruiz hold his belts in the build-up, giving his opponent what was only meant to be a souvenir photograph.
That was not to be the case, however. After knocking down Ruiz in the third round, Joshua waltzed in, starting swinging, got caught – and the rest was history.
The Brutal defeat totally derailed his campaign to fight Wilder for all the belts, setting up a make-or-break rematch.
Simply put, had Joshua lost, we would not be talking about this impending undisputed fight. It would not have happened. Perhaps Joshua would have even called it quits.
Alas, it was Joshua who prevailed; he used his range, movement and jab to keep a static, overweight Ruiz at bay in one of his most impressive performances to date.
Indeed, he was cautious and clearly wary of getting hit, but Joshua had not displayed such boxing prowess in his professional career.
Having won gold at the 2012 London Olympics, his skills were never in question, but this was no longer a Joshua simply bulldozing his opponents; it was one thinking and boxing smart.
What Joshua proved in this fight was that he is not at all one-dimensional. If he needs to fight, he can fight. If he needs to box, he can box. And that’s exactly what he implemented in his following bout against Pulev.
Tyson Fury vs Wladamir Klitschko
Tyson Fury produced huge shock as he defeated Wladimir Klitschko by unanimous decision
We return to Tyson Fury, and his fight against Wladamir Klitschko, which was what propelled him to fame.
Having never beaten any truly world class fighters before, Fury was expected to be another one of Klitschko’s victims, with the Ukrainian on a dominant nine-year winning run.
That wasn’t to be the case, however, as Fury was awarded the fight 115-112, 115-112, 116-111 on the judges’ scorecards following a stunning performance to become the WBA, IBF and WBO champion.
The fight certainly wasn’t a classic, with few power punches landing clean. However, it was remarkable nonetheless, with the great Klitschko simply unable to work out his awkward opponent.
Fury, who switched between an orthodox and a southpaw stance throughout, regularly taunted his opponent, even putting his arms behind his back on numerous occasions.
It was almost easy for the then-27-year-old, who landed the most telling blow of the fight, with an overhand right in the 10th round that sent a lackluster Klitschko stumbling towards the ropes.
Fury was docked a point in the 11th round for repeated shots to the back of Klischko’s head, and the Ukrainian did mount some pressure in the 12th, but it was the Brit who prevailed in one of the biggest upsets in recent heavyweight times.
Though the rematch never took place, Fury has continued to progress since, with his demolition of Wilder just as impressive.
Anthony Joshua vs Wladamir Klitschko
Anthony Joshua’s terrific uppercut against Klitschko will forever go down in the history books
Finally, we look at Anthony Joshua’s memorable knockout victory over Klitschko, which will forever go down as one of the best fights in heavyweight history.
While Fury was an established heavyweight when he fought Klitschko, doing so in his 25th bout, Joshua was a relative novice – despite being a world champion – having stepped into the ring on just 18 occasions prior.
To put that into perspective, Fury was fighting Vinny Maddalone – who had lost three in his last seven – at the same point in his career.
And indeed it nearly proved a step too soon for Joshua.
After a cagey opening, Joshua floored Klitschko in the fifth round, before roaring with delight to the 90,000 fans in a packed Wembley Stadium.
He then went for the kill, and put every ounce of energy he had into getting the job done. But by the conclusion of the round, he was spent. And by round six, he was on the canvas.
It was then a case of survival for Joshua, until he gained a second wind towards the back-end of the fight, when he knocked down Klitschko another two times in the 11th round before the referee waved it off.
It was a coming-of-age moment for Joshua, who proved he certainly was no hype job.
Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury
So, how do the two fighters compare? Well, as the saying goes, styles make fights.
Yes, Fury came out of his bout with Klitschko entirely unhurt, but he also failed to inflict any damage. Joshua, on the other hand, produced a knockout for the ages.
And yes, Joshua has been defeated in a concussive, damaging defeat. But has that ultimately benefited the Londoner?
Joshua has produced two stunning performances on the back of his defeat and has made significant adjustments to his game. He also now comes into the fight as the underdog, which has benefited him in the past.
As for Fury, his skill and awkwardness are unparalleled. But while he was able to walk down and bully a Wilder with limited skill on the back foot and weighing three stone lighter than him, will he be able to do that to a new and improved Joshua?
Particularly as Fury will have been out of the ring for around 18 months, will he still have that same sharpness?
Many believe Joshua’s defeat to Ruiz was actually the best thing that could have happened to him, and coming off a fight with Pulev – a rangy boxer-mover with a great jab – he’s had good preparation.
As for who has the better resume, well that’s up for interpretation.
Joshua has unquestionably fought vastly more top-level fighters than Fury, but he arguably doesn’t have any wins as impressive as either a Klitchko who hadn’t lost in nine years or an unbeaten Wilder.
Simply put, this is a genuine 50-50 – and that’s why we’re all so desperate to see it.