WEMBLEY: Britain’s Anthony Joshua lands a punch on Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (left) during their heavyweight world title boxing match at Wembley Arena in north west London. – AFP

LONDON: Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn says a deal for his man to fight Tyson Fury in an all-British world heavyweight unification bout in 2021 could take as little as two days to complete. Plans for a “Battle of Britain” have accelerated after Joshua, 31, stopped Bulgarian veteran Kubrat Pulev in the ninth round at Wembley Arena on Saturday to retain all three of his belts. Fury, the self-styled “Gypsy King”, took to social media after Pulev was knocked out, saying he would knock out his fellow British heavyweight “inside three rounds”.

An agreement in principle for Joshua, who retained his WBA, WBO and IBF belts, and WBC champion Fury for two meetings in 2021 has been in place since earlier this year. Asked how long it would take to complete a deal, Hearn replied: “A couple of days. “There is no reason we cannot complete the deal and then move on and solve the other problems. “We need to write to the governing bodies and say ‘yes we have a deal’ and we will now talk to the various sites and confirm the dates shortly for what I suppose will be the end of May.”

There are some potential stumbling blocks, including if Fury is forced to fight Deontay Wilder for a third time and Joshua could be told by the WBO to face mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk. But Hearn insisted: “The only hitch I can think of is Wilder. If the court order the Fury rematch, and it doesn’t sound as though they will, then it is out of our hands. “That is the only way it falls through is if something stops their side. That isn’t me saying they don’t want it-they do. But if the court orders it then we will have to fight Usyk.”

Matchroom promoter Hearn disputed Fury’s gung-ho assessment of his chances, saying Joshua would knock him out. “AJ got hit once maybe with a right hand (against Pulev), that was about it,” he said. “Fury and Pulev probably punch as hard as each other, Fury is not a devastating puncher, but he is a lot better than Pulev. “It is an undisputed fight, it should be the toughest fight out there, but I’ve always fancied him to beat Tyson Fury, always.”

BBC personality
Fury has revealed he has asked his lawyers to help remove him from the BBC’s sports personality of the year shortlist. The heavyweight champion said he asked “politely” when he posted an Instagram message earlier this month. But he has now taken further steps to be removed from the list of contenders and instructed his lawyers to send a letter to the BBC.

Fury’s previous appearance on the shortlist in 2015 caused controversy, with more than 100,000 people signing a petition calling for the boxer’s removal over a series of outspoken comments on homophobia and abortion. But in 2018 Fury’s omission from the final list, following his draw against Wilder, drew criticism from the boxer’s camp. This year’s shortlist also includes Formula One world champion, world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.

Joshua knocks out Pulev
Meanwhile, Joshua said he wants to unify all four world heavyweight boxing titles in an all-British clash with Tyson Fury after a dominant ninth round knockout of Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday. In front of 1,000 fans, with attendance limited due to coronavirus restrictions, Joshua ensured there was no repeat of a shock defeat in his first clash with Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019 as the 39-year-old Pulev was swotted aside. Attention will now turn to the possibility of a much-anticipated clash with WBC champion Fury in 2021. “I’m up for anything. Who wants to see Anthony Joshua box Tyson Fury in 2021?” Joshua asked the crowd to a chorus of cheers.

“I started this game in 2013 and I’ve been chasing the belts ever since. “Whoever has got the belt, I would love to compete with them. If that is Tyson Fury then let it be Tyson Fury.” Pulev had lost just once previously in his career to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, but was outclassed by Joshua, who could have had victory wrapped up within three rounds. Twice Pulev was given a count by the referee in round three after he was left flailing on the ropes by an explosive burst of punches from Joshua. The IBF, WBA and WBO world champion then surprisingly took his foot off the accelerator to allow Pulev to hang in the fight.

But in round nine three uppercuts in quick succession put Pulev back on the canvas and this time he did not get back up in time as Joshua took his career record to 24-1. An agreement in principle for Joshua and WBC champion Fury to finally go head-to-head has been in place since earlier this year. “Starting from tomorrow, we make the Tyson Fury fight straight away. It’s the only fight to be made in boxing. It is the biggest fight in British boxing history,” said Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn. “I know he (Joshua) wants it. He is the best heavyweight in the world, I promise you. He’ll break him down, he’ll knock him out.”

Fury also confirmed he wants the fight with a post on social media shortly after Joshua’s win. “I want the fight, I want the fight next,” said Fury, who has not been in the ring since beating Deontay Wilder in February. “I’ll knock him out inside three rounds.” However, Fury could be contractually obliged to fight Wilder for a third time before taking on Joshua. After the first bout was controversially declared a draw, Wilder activated a rematch clause following Fury’s victory in the second fight. A third clash between the two was postponed earlier this year due to coronavirus. – Agencies