Anthony Joshua Answers the Bell, Shifts Pressure to Tyson Fury

Anthony Joshua answered so many questions during his convincing Friday night triumph, clinched by a hellacious second-round knockout of former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.

And with that, he posed the biggest question of all in the increasingly fascinating heavyweight division:

Tyson Fury, can you top that?

Joshua’s unleashing of a right-handed hammer shot square to the face of Ngannou ruined the former UFC king, sending him crumbling on a folded-back knee to the canvas, where it took personnel delivering oxygen to bring the big man back to consciousness.

Clapping ringside was Fury, who spent fight week in Saudi Arabia chirping with Ngannou over their October bout when Fury barely prevailed.

How does that flat showing look now?

Before Ngannou entered the picture following his split with UFC President Dana White, Fury seemed downright obsessed with Joshua and the repeated opinion that Fury was the both the best heavyweight in England and in the world.

Friday night, he wasn’t the best big man in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Joshua was everything he was supposed to be when he left the 2012 Olympics in London wearing the gold medal.

He revealed an amazing glimpse of fulfilling that potential in 2017 when he got off the canvas and ended the career of long-reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko in front of a roaring crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium.

The crowning revival of the division was set for Joshua’s New York debut in 2019, but the Beatles’ arrival in America it wasn’t.

Replacement fighter Andy Ruiz Jr. produced an inspired, power-punching display, exposing Joshua’s vulnerable chin and cardio and pulling off arguably the upset of the decade.

Where was Joshua’s substance? Even his safe rematch victory by decision over a flabby Ruiz drew catcalls.

A heavyweight champion is supposed to punish his opposition. Joe Louis said, “You can run, but you cannot hide.” Mike Tyson wanted to inflict pain.

Joshua? He couldn’t outbox or pummel the smaller cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who moved up in weight, took Joshua’s three belts and then beat Joshua again in a 2022 rematch.

Since wrecking Robert Helenius with a flush punch to the face in August, however, Joshua, now 34, has been a hellish force.

He forced Otto Wallin, who bloodied Fury and went the distance with him, to quit on his stool after six rounds.

Friday night was further separation against a common opponent.

“It is what it is,” Joshua said in the ring.

While Fury tried to paint Joshua-Ngannou as a “show,” or something short of a championship-level heavyweight bout, why did he struggle so immensely with Ngannou?

Fury argued against Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn saying Joshua had lifted himself with that performance to stand again as the best heavyweight on the planet.

“I’m sure that Oleksandr Usyk will have something to say about that considering [Usyk] beat [Joshua] twice,” Fury said. “Me and Usyk have got the undisputed world championship coming up [May 18]. [Joshua’s] just had a show fight in Saudi Arabia, which is fantastic for the show, but for the actual, real boxing, me and Usyk could fight for the No. 1 and No. 2 position in the undisputed championship of the world.”

That’s why the pressure is squarely on Fury.

He must win May 18 to reclaim the edge over Joshua with the ability to say he’s the man who beat the man (Usyk) who twice bested Joshua.

Almost unfortunately, there’s a rematch clause with Fury-Usyk.

If Fury wins convincingly, none of us are going to want to wait through another Usyk fight before getting right into the battle of the Brits.

And if Usyk wins on the heels of the Ngannou bout in October, where does that leave Fury?

That’s the beauty of it for Joshua. Let someone else – especially the mouthy Fury – deal with questions now.

“I’m so proud of [Joshua] because there was a huge amount of pressure tonight,” Hearn says. “People talking about if he was to lose to Francis Ngannou, what would happen? He rolled the dice because of his excellence. He said if we win this fight, we will fight the winner of Fury against Usyk. OK? There was a show here in October, it was called The Battle of the Baddest to decide the baddest man of the planet. They shouldn’t have done that in October. They should have done it tonight because you’re looking at the baddest man on the planet right there. You’re looking at the No. 1 heavyweight in the world.

“Unquestionably, on this form, there is no man in the world that can beat him in the heavyweight division. I told you he’s going to come back. He’s going to become the undisputed heavyweight world champion. There’s a brilliant fighter down there called Tyson Fury. Please, please beat Oleksandr Usyk on May the 18th, because I promise you this, you’ll get the biggest fight in the history of this sport when Anthony Joshua takes the undisputed world championship.”

Joshua endured it all. The doubt. The criticism. Fury’s cheap shots.

When he uncorked that destructive final punch on Ngannou, an opponent Hearn referred to as “a savage, a beast,” crumbled along with all of those nagging dismissals of Joshua.

“I cannot wait for him to beat Tyson Fury,” Hearn said.

First, Fury needs to follow Joshua’s lead by answering a question.