Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder: Brit turns attention to Anthony Joshua and recovering his ‘borrowed belts’

Declan Taylor

Tyson Fury refused to breathe the words ‘Anthony Joshua’ during a fractious fight week ahead of Saturday’s thrilling draw with Deontay Wilder here in Los Angeles.

But with the marking around his face still prominent as he held court at a downtown hotel on Sunday – the morning after the night before – it did not take too long for his attention to turn towards the current IBF, WBA and WBO champion from London.

My belts,” Fury said of Joshua’s trio of major titles. “They are just borrowed belts really. I don’t really class them as world title belts because I’ve got them at home in my living room. They are all mine still.”

The Gypsy King has a point. Joshua might be the current incumbent of the titles, as well as arguably the biggest draw in the entire sport today, but he did not have to go through Fury to get to them.

The 6ft 9in heavyweight clinched the belts by famously beating Wladimir Klitschko in November 2015 but he never defended them. He was quickly stripped of the IBF title due to a contractual rankle regarding a rematch with the vanquished Ukrainian while he later vacated the other two as his downward spiral into depression gathered disturbing pace.

Joshua took full advantage of Fury’s abdication and won all three of the belts in the Wilmslow man’s absence. Fury still retains the so-called ‘lineal title’ as a result of never losing since beating Klitschko, a run which was extended by the controversial draw in his challenge for Wilder’s WBC title.

“I’m happy that I’m the lineal heavyweight champion of the world,” Fury said. “I hold it with pride, respect and honour and it means more to me than any belt ever anyway. To have that great lineage going back to the days of John L Sullivan all the way to today, to have my name amongst them greats is a very big achievement.

“Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, none of them have got it but they all want it and there is only one man who they have to come to now to get it. I’m not really interested in the alphabetical titles of today, because there are so many and I mean no disrespect to anybody. The belt I have is the only real championship that matters.

Anthony Joshua is the current IBF, WBO and IBO champion (Reuters)

“I’m only the man who beat the man going back hundreds of years and I’ve still got it.”

He should, too, have the WBC belt among his hand luggage as he flies back to England this week however his split draw at the Staples Center ensured that Wilder retained the title.

But, despite an ultimately disappointing result from a fight in which he dominated, Fury’s stock has risen to giddy new levels as a result of his performance. His miraculous climb to beat the count from a 12th-round knockdown set social media alight and will go down as one of the single most iconic moments of fighting heart ever displayed by a modern British boxer.

Even without a victory, Fury’s performance has endeared him to the American public, which was one of the key motivating factors for taking the fight in the first place.

“I think the fight made a massive impact on America,” he said. “Everybody in America has heard the story of Tyson Fury, they’ve heard about the legend but now they’ve seen him. They now know why.” When asked whether he could now become a major British star stateside, Fury added: “I think so, yes. I’ve got the engaging personality. I’m just being myself, I’m not trying to act up or anything.

“As you saw in there I was putting my hands behind my back and my hands in the air. Even when I was knocked down, I got straight back up and put my hands behind my back again. I am an entertainer, I would say.” Fury is the sort of character, it would seem, for whom the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award was designed. However there were protests regarding Fury’s involvement in the 2015 vote due to his expression of offensive homosexual and sexist views.

More than 130,000 people signed an online petition to have Fury removed from the voting but he was not thrown out and eventually finished fourth, around 7,000 votes behind third-place Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Tyson Fury is set for a rematch with Deontay Wilder (Reuters)

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s gutsy display in the City of Angels, however, the odds on Fury to clinch the bauble this year have been slashed.

“Do you know what, all of that happened last time was what it was,” the 30-year-old said. “This is a new game, a new era and new everything. If I get it, I get it and if I don’t, God bless the person who does.

“I think it’s about time people saw the real Tyson Fury, they’ve been seeing the real me since I came back. I’ve definitely got the recognition from the fans and I feel like I’ve got more support than I’ve ever had.” For now, Fury will put his feet up over Christmas following a long, arduous 2018 which has involved a dramatic 10-stone weight loss. Talk about his next move, which could be a Wilder rematch, is unlikely to gather any real pace until the new year rolls in.

He said: “I’m going to go home and spend some quality time with my kids. I’ve been away from home for over two months and they’ve missed me. I’ve got a little daughter there and she’s probably forgotten me. She’s only a year old.

“I’m just going to enjoy myself really, enjoy my family, enjoy my friends and enjoy my time off while I’ve got it because I’m back into training camp soon.

“Whatever happened yesterday is history so I’m just looking forward to today and tomorrow. We never know how we’re going to feel but I’m happy and everything I trained for, I executed. I couldn’t have done any better, I tried my heart out.”