Anthony Joshua’s Boxing Multiverse, Part 1: What if Tyson Fury didn’t ‘retire’ after beating Wladimir Klitschko for heavyweight title

It’s official fight week! Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia is another fork in the road for the former heavyweight champion. On the eve of a potentially career-changing fight, The Sporting News looks back on the four greatest moments that shaped the former heavyweight champion’s career and ponders ‘what ifs?’ with the 32-year-old boxing superstar.

Welcome to the Multiverse by Anthony Joshua.

On November 28, 2015, Tyson Fury ended Wladimir Klitschko’s nearly ten-year tenure as heavyweight champion with a dominant, albeit uneventful, unanimous decision to become the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and The Ring heavyweight champion.

Just 10 days later, Fury was stripped of the IBF title because his rematch clause with Klitschko would prevent him from facing Vyacheslav Glazkov, the mandatory challenger for the IBF title. Four days later, Joshua would stop Dillian Whyte on the seventh lap, preparing for his first jump of a world title.

Fury and Joshua’s paths nearly collided with Fury set to face Klitschko on July 9, 2016, and Joshua beat out Charles Martin – who earned the vacant IBF title by stopping Glazkov – in the second round to claim his first to win the world championship.

It seemed that Joshua might eventually find himself in the ring with the winner of the rematch. However, Fury canceled the rematch and retired from boxing due to substance abuse and depression. We wouldn’t see Fury in a boxing ring again until 2018.

MORE: Join DAZN to watch Usyk vs Joshua 2

Meanwhile, Joshua won the WBA (Super) and IBO titles when he faced Klitschko in an epic war on April 29, 2017.

Wladimir Klitschko (L) jabs at Anthony Joshua during their 2017 fight at Wembley Stadium

But what would have happened if Fury didn’t have to retire from the sport and went through with his rematch with Klitschko as planned?

If Fury had somehow managed to keep his personal demons at bay, it’s possible “The Gypsy King” would have repulsed Klitschko in the rematch and remained a unified champion. However, that would have also taken away from us the epic encounter between Joshua and Klitschko in April 2017 in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium. Klitschko and Joshua only fought because the Fury fight failed.

But what if Fury and Klitschko ended up fighting and Fury kept the titles?

It is very likely that the fight between Fury and Joshua would have already taken place rather than fans still waiting to see if it will ever go down. After all, there was too much money on the table not to fight the fight.

Fury may not have been as popular with American audiences as he is today as he deliberately planned to settle in the United States to begin his first encounter with Wilder. He might not have become as great as he is today if he hadn’t made time for the sport.

MORE: Will Joshua finally face Fury if he beats Usyk?

There is also a scenario where Fury would have made it to his fight with Klitschko but his lack of motivation and personal demons prevented him from doing his best and Klitschko would have reclaimed the titles. A disappointed and depressed Fury would have stepped away and it’s very likely we would have seen Klitschko-Joshua in 2017 or 2018.

Interestingly, both scenarios did find Joshua the unified heavyweight champion just as he was en route to fighting Andy Ruiz Jr. The outcome of the Joshua vs Klitschko fight might not have been very different and it’s hard to believe that Fury would have shrugged off his mental health issues long enough to be in top form for Joshua. However, what may have been determined is that had Joshua overtaken Fury, Klitschko and the others, he would have been widely recognized as the greatest non-American heavyweight of all time.

The only thing that would not have been determined is an undisputed heavyweight champion as the WBC title remained on American soil.

Deontay Wilder won the WBC heavyweight title in January 2015 when he went the distance with Bermaine Stiverne and defended that title seven straight times until meeting a returning Tyson Fury in 2018. If things had broken Joshua’s way, it would have been difficult to see a fight with Wilder for the undisputed 2019 Heavyweight Champion not happening.

USYK-JOSHUA 2: PPV & Ticket Prices | Purse & Prize Money | like watching

Obviously, it’s not a given that Joshua would have won those fights. But what we do know is that his career path was drastically altered by Fury’s “retirement” from the sport.

Stay tuned for Parts II, III and IV in our week-long What If? series starring Anthony Joshua heading into Saturday’s fight.

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