When Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury finally fight each other this year, the eyes will be on the heavyweight belts as the prize.
Though the pair have actually clashed before with Fury visiting Joshua’s Finchley gym for a sparring session back in 2010.
There were no belts on offer, though Fury did promise a Rolex watch for anyone that could put him down.
Fury was already 11 fights into his professional career when he met AJ, who was still two years away from winning Olympic gold at the London Games.
And while Joshua couldn’t put Fury down, the Gypsy King admitted at the time that his now-rival gave him “a beating”.
Speaking a few weeks after the session, Fury told BBC London: “I went down to Finchley Boxing Club and I sparred with the ABA champion, Anthony Joshua.
“He’s red hot, him, he’s very good. To be honest with you, I thought to myself, ‘I’m only going to take it easy as he’s an amateur and we probably won’t spar again if I go mad.’
“He’s rushed out at me, he threw a one-two and left-hook and I slipped. I thought, ‘He’s not that good, I’m going to take my time.’
“Then bash, he gives me a big uppercut right on the point of the chin.
“If I’d have had a bit of a weak chin like David Price, I’d have been knocked out for a month.
“He’s very, very good and he’s only young, 20, watch out for that name Anthony Joshua he is one prospect for the future.
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“He came out at me for three rounds and he gave me a beating – I’m not going to deny it, he gave me hell for leather for three rounds.
“I thought ‘Oh my god, an amateur is killing me.’
“Being a professional, and I’ve been an amateur myself and fought all over the world, I slowed him down a bit with a few good body shots.
“The kid’s only 20, and I’m a handful myself, so for him to put up a good performance like that against a top prospect in me, I think he’s one for the future.”
Though Fury changed his story in 2018 as talks of a bout with AJ ramped up, escalating the war of the words.
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Fury said: “We’ve had a spar before – amateur boxer he was at the time – he had a good couple of rounds then I started hitting him round the body.
“He was lifting his legs up in the corner, there were ten people in the gym who saw him do it.
“I’ve got my hands down flicking him, leaning out the way, he’s coming forward with them big swings, how’s he going to hit me?
“I said, ‘Go on then, put one on me, I’ll stand still.’ He just can’t win.”
Joshua was a late-comer to boxing, struggling in early life before being shown the way in the gym.
And, in 2016, he gave his own version of events, with the Rolex on offer clearly a good incentive.
AJ said: “I didn’t even know who Fury was. He was in London at the time, come down from Manchester.
“I used to read the Boxing News religiously, like I still do. In the magazine I remember reading, ‘Tyson Fury’s going around different gyms sparring and if anyone can knock him out, they get to keep his Rolex.’
“I wasn’t even in to Rolex watches back then, I was rocking Casios!
“I’m hungry. I’m still hungry now, if you know me, I’m hungry. I was hungrier back then. Those assets and stuff were so far out of reach to me.
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“So I remember him popping in the gym, and then coach says, ‘Alright Josh, you’re sparring.’
“I didn’t really know who Tyson Fury was, but in the boxing gym, there’s no word called ‘no’.
“So I just got my headguard on, gum shield in and we just cracked on and me and him just had a straight war.
“I was young and we just went to war really. He’s a gypsy warrior, hungry and that’s it – just a good, all out heavyweight sparring session.
“So what I learned about Fury is that we’ve got the same heart, we’re both fighting people and we go to war.
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“I didn’t manage to knock him out, we both hit each other with some big shots, powerful shots.
“He put the interview out there I think after that fight, years ago, predicting, he said, ‘Watch out for this kid, he’ll be heavyweight champion of the world one day.’
“And he got his prediction right.”
And Joshua expanded on what went on inside the gym ring more recently, adding:
"He knows what's coming.
“All I wanted was his Rolex watch (because) he said before that spar, 'If you can beat me up or knock me out, you can have my Rolex.' It was a good spar, and I didn't really know too much.
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“It was just passion. Now I have some boxing IQ and passion, I know it will be a great fight.
"I was hungry then, and I'm even hungrier now. There was a Rolex [on offer then] but now there is an even bigger pot of gold at the end of this rainbow and I want to take his head off his shoulders when that fight happens. I'm sure that I'll win."
Joshua has lost just once in his career though is still the IBF, WBO and WBA heavyweight champion.
His uppercut has been a key weapon, helping him knockout the likes of Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko and Kubrat Pulev.
He added: "Fury knows about them uppercuts! He said it on the BBC interview years ago. I respect him for his honesty.
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"Sparring is sparring, you don't gain nothing but it's nice to share a ring with someone I'm fighting.
"It's funny how he mentioned the uppercut years back, you can see throughout my career it's brought many successes my way.
"I just look forward to competing with him, no splits, hold ups, let's just get it rolling."
While it was just Fury and Joshua in the ring back in 2010, there were plenty of spectators at the Finchley gym.
It included AJ’s first boxing coach, Sean Murphy, who believes Fury underestimated the talent and power Joshua possessed.
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Murphy said: “It was early on in Tyson’s professional career and he showed up, I was outside the gym, and he said he wanted to do ‘three easy rounds’.
“So I said ‘well, it’s going to be a little bit harder, my lad’s just won the ABA’s, I’ve got the committee and a gym full of people in there and you want me to tell him to just do three easy rounds?’ And then Tyson went ‘bring it on, bring it on’.
“They sort of underestimated Joshua, they didn’t really know much about it him, so he came out all lethargic in the first round. And Joshua has stuck it on him, he’s caught him with a few good punches and Tyson put his hands on the ropes. So I said: ‘You can’t hold the ropes!'
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“I don’t think he was expecting this young lad to be as powerful and as strong as he was
“It was a good experience for Joshua because after that first round, which he probably won, Tyson came out and he was talking a little bit. He was winding Joshua up and made him miss a bit.
“So I had a word with him after the second and he got on again with his boxing and he probably nicked the third round. It was a really good spar and he got a lot out of it.
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“There was a thing saying, that if anyone knocked him [Fury] down, he would give them his Rolex. So I said to Joshua: ‘ask him if his Rolex is up for grabs tonight,’ so Joshua said that – messing around – and he just started laughing.”
Joshua never did get that Rolex off Fury, but he will now have his eyes on the WBC belt that the Gypsy King holds.
Promoter Eddie Hearn has said a contract is signed, though date and venues of the bout is to be agreed.
Hopefully it won’t be long before the public see Fury vs Joshua for real.
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