Anthony Joshua says he needs to fight British rival Tyson Fury to establish, both to the world and to himself, just how good he really is.
The WBO, WBA and IBF champion is set to take on former cruiserweight king and now heavyweight contender Oleksandr Usyk on September 25, in what is deemed as a genuine banana skin that could derail his chances of an historic undisputed showdown against Fury.
The British pair had seemingly agreed a deal to square off during the summer, but the eagerly-anticipated bout was put on hold after an American arbitrator ruled Fury must complete his trilogy with Deontay Wilder, which he will do on October 9.
Antony Joshua (L) admits he needs to fight Tyson Fury (R) to prove how good he really is
Asked whether he needs Fury on his record before hanging his gloves up, Joshua told the 5 Live Boxing podcast: ‘We need it for boxing. I need it, you need it, the boxing world needs it.’
Fury, who is widely expected to claim a second-straight win over Wilder when the pair square off in Las Vegas, recently outlined the next five fights he wants, which includes a Joshua double-header in 2022, after a bout with Dillian Whyte later this year.
Joshua swiftly responded, insisting he would jump at the opportunity to fight Fury twice, even without the belts. And the 31-year-old now adds that only Fury can elevate him to the next level.
‘Training camp is hard,’ he added. ‘To get better is very difficult in boxing. To improve is difficult.
‘So, to fight Tyson Fury is a big challenge for myself, because I’m going to put that pressure on myself to actually get better.
‘But it’s what we all need, I need it, just to see how good I am. Come on, let’s go through this training camp again.
‘Let’s see how far I can take myself during this period. It’ll be a good challenge mentally.
‘Not about him, but because I actually want to do well. When I wake up in the morning early and I’m tired, my body’s battered, I still go out and do what I do. It’s great rewards and only someone like Fury can give that to me.’
Fury will complete his trilogy with American Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas on October 9
Standing in the way of the Joshua-Fury fight is 34-year-old Ukrainian Usyk, a fellow Olympic gold medalist who moved up to heavyweight after becoming undisputed champion at cruiserweight.
Usyk has fought just twice at heavyweight in perhaps less-than convincing wins over Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora, who went the full distance with the southpaw.
But Joshua believes Usyk’s achievements at cruiserweight make him his second-best opponent to date, behind only Wladamir Klitschko, who he beat in a stunning battle at Wembley back in 2017.
Joshua said: ‘On paper, he (Usyk) sits No2 behind Wald. They’re very different technically, but on paper – gold medalist, how long did he (Klitschko) reign as champion? 10 years?
‘Wlad at heavyweight did very, very well for himself. So, Wlad No1 for those reasons, and Usyk for his cruiserweight success.’
Joshua memorably defeated Wladamir Klitschko in 2017 with a stunning 11th-round knockout
Fury has also revealed he believes Usyk will be a tough test for Joshua, while contemplating whether the heavyweight enigma has been deliberately holding back in his two tests to date.
‘What I’ve seen from Usyk in the last two fights hasn’t been a lot, but then I had a little think about it, a brainstorm. Maybe he’s not showing us everything he can do,’ he told Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions.
‘Maybe he [Usyk] was playing around with the likes of [Derek] Chisora and the other guy he fought, [Chazz] Witherspoon. Maybe he didn’t try and win those fights properly.
‘Maybe he was looking bad on purpose so he could get that big payday and do his good boxing on that night, which has been done before.
‘A lot of fighters have looked terrible in fights to get other big fights and then rose to the occasion and got those big fights.
‘I got a sneaky feeling that Usyk is better than he looks, and on the night when he feels he needs to perform, then he will.’
Fury believes Usyk has been deliberately underperforming in his two heavyweight fights