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Anthony Joshua finds his happy medium as the road to Tyson Fury clears

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Anthony Joshua stopped a game Kubrat Pulev inside Wembley Arena showcasing a blend of styles suited to heavyweight longevity.

Anthony Joshua says he’s ready for Oleksandr Usyk’s style on Saturday Photo by Andrew Couldridge - Pool/Getty Images

There was an almost audible sigh of relief inside London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday night. As Anthony Joshua’s thunderous right hand left Kubrat Pulev sprawled out on the blood-soaked canvas, the final hurdle had been cleared: for all intents and purposes, a super-fight with Tyson Fury would now follow.

Perhaps it was too much to ask for any real contractual illuminations following Saturday’s bout. Joshua stood in front of the Sky Sports and DAZN cameras still perspiring from the heat of heavyweight battle, yet ice cold in response to his immediate future.

“Less talk more action,” he repeated, reticent to give Andy Scott any notable soundbites. “It’s not about the opponents; it’s about the legacy and the belts.” Joshua still seemed pumped, still seemed slightly angry despite sealing the 24th win of his professional career. He was unwilling to let his moment become overshadowed by a rival.

Throwing the further questioning over to his promoter Eddie Hearn, it’s clear that Joshua didn’t want to set a trap for himself in the future. If talks with Fury’s team break down, then the unified world champion needs another focus; another worthwhile path to help cement his legacy.

Him mentioning a preference of belts over opponents keeps the door open for Oleksandr Usyk — a frustrating barrier that could be placed ahead of Joshua-Fury in order to keep hold of the WBO title. WBO president Paco Valcarcel has already granted Joshua two exemptions of a mandatory defence by taking the Andy Ruiz rematch and Saturday’s IBF mandatory against Kubrat Pulev. A third is unlikely, meaning the belt would become vacant if Joshua pursues Fury.

But we are so far down this road now that it isn’t about the belts anymore and it is purely about the opposition “AJ” mixes with. Telling that to the commercial arm of the Joshua machine wouldn’t be received well. To us as fans, these saturated trinkets are becoming less and less important, yet the noise surrounding an “undisputed” fight for all four belts is too loud for anyone responsible for Anthony Joshua’s career to ignore.

We’ve all been around the sport long enough to know that not everything is as simple as A fighting B. Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury in 2021 would see the United Kingdom ground to a halt for an evening, a day, possibly a week. Its monetary implications would be astronomical for both parties. We are closer to this fight than we were on Friday afternoon, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

Inside the ring, Joshua was able to find a happy medium of styles that has seen him develop into a better all-round that was stopped dramatically inside Madison Square Garden. Patience behind a stinging jab, head movement and guile in his attacks are notable new strings to the bow of the champion, using Kubrat Pulev as cannon-fodder to showcase these additions. It was a mature performance, but one that still excited considering his previously vulnerabilities.

COMBO-BOX-HEAVY-GBR-JOSHUA-FURY Photos by RINGO CHIU and FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP

A controlled start soon morphed into fireworks in the third as the Bulgarian tasted the canvas for the first time since 2014. Pulev turned his back on the direction of pain yet was allowed to continue by the referee longer into the contest. One, two, three, four colossal uppercuts frazzled the senses of the challenger, as Joshua began implementing what has now become his signature money shot.

The rounds ticked by to the ninth as Joshua calculated the next attack. A devastating straight right saw Pulev unable to continue following a game, brave and borderline unhinged performance. Even as the decision was announced, Pulev still seemed keen on dancing another three rounds of agony, like a drunk refusing to leave a bar after repeatably being forced to leave.

“He [Joshua] is tailor-made for a fighter with my style,” Fury told ITV on Monday morning, responding to the growing speculation of a summer meeting with Joshua. “I’m aiming to take him out inside four rounds.” It would be wrong to expect any other sort of narrative from Fury; his willingness to bang the drum this soon is a positive step.

Fury is currently priced as the 4/7 favourite if these two meet in 2021. While it’s hard to disagree with the notion that Fury should be favoured going in against any heavyweight, Joshua has shown improvements in his armour that bode well for such a contest. Perhaps “AJ” has found the perfect blend of aggression, power and patience that could ask fresh questions of the “Gypsy King.”

Styles make fights, but more importantly, so do signatures and suits. No fight is boxing is too big to fuck up. Just please, not this one.

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK. Follow or contact him on Twitter at @lewroyscribbles