Anthony Joshua is not yet interested in fighting Tyson Fury as he wants to face the former world champion “at his best”.
The current unified heavyweight titleholder makes his next defence against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night.
Negotiations between Joshua and WBC champion Deontay Wilder broke down earlier this year, with the American instead accepting a challenge from Fury, and ‘AJ’ insists he would not have agreed to battle his British rival until he had become more active after a long absence from the ring.
Joshua told Sky Sports: “That’s why I wouldn’t fight Fury now, because I want Fury at his best, so there is no claim to say that I took him out when he was…
“You know, for me, I’ve only said that I would fight Fury at his best. I said let him get over his issues, let him come back and get fit again. But if he thinks he’s ready, he’s ready.
“But me being a fighter, I think that you need learning fights after a three-year layoff.
“Klitschko had a 17-month layoff before he fought me because Fury pulled out twice. People say ‘he had a 17-month layoff, he wasn’t the same’, so what is Fury going to do after a three-year lay-off?
“It shows that people have concerns about people that have time out of the ring.”
Joshua holds the WBA ‘super’, IBF and WBO titles following 21 victories, including wins over Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker, and Dillian Whyte, and has questioned the comparative records of Fury and Wilder.
“Good luck to Wilder, good luck to Fury,” he said. “It’s taken them a long time to actually have meaningful fights.
“As I said, they have been professional nine going on 10 years, and they are finally having a fight, because I think they realise that from myself, they have looked across the other side of the pond and said ‘well this young kid has come up, been in meaningful fights, and he’s gaining the respect of the boxing public, maybe we need to do the same.’
“Wilder just fought Ortiz – that was a close scrape – and Fury three years ago was the one to fight Wladimir Klitschko. It took a long time and now they are finally fighting each other.
“For me, nine to 10 years as a professional, I’ll be thinking about retirement. I’ve gone in and taken the risks instead of nine to 10 years to come and say, ‘hang on a minute, I haven’t had a defining fight.’ That’s not the way I want to go.
“But each to their own. For me, that’s not the way I want to go. That’s what’s brought the respect of the heavyweight division back to the UK, is the fact that we’ve all stepped up.”
The 28-year-old hopes to strengthen his status as a dominant champion by defeating Povetkin this weekend, keeping himself on course for a potential showdown with either Wilder or Fury, that would end any debate about the division’s No 1.
He said: “Whoever wins out of Wilder and Fury will now come and fight me, god willing I beat Alexander Povetkin, for a chance to prove themselves, so they realise you have to fight stiff competition in order to put your name in a position to fight the toughest challengers out there.
“I just think without my name in it, them guys wouldn’t have fought each other.”