Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has questioned Tyson Fury’s star power and popularity as the two inch forward to a gargantuan heavyweight collision next year.

First, Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) faces IBF mandatory contender Kubrat Pulev at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday week (December 12), knowing victory should pave the way for a two-fight series with WBC king Fury in 2021.

If Covid-19 restrictions ease suitably that bout sells out any stadium, but Joshua has respectfully insisted that he is the man with a history of drawing huge numbers of fans.

“Tyson Fury is a talented, talented guy and he deserves all the praise he is getting right now but it is interesting when you talk about his popularity. Because if Fury could have sold out 90,000-capacity stadiums, then he would have done,” Joshua exclusively told The Sun.

“But he never has had the ability to attract those large numbers, not until he fights me. I have had those sorts of crowds against Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin at Wembley.

“I will fight Fury because in 50 years’ time, people will remember your character and I always want to be remembered as a risk-taker.”

WBA Super, WBO and IBF champion Joshua must first deal with Bulgarian veteran Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs), who has only tasted defeat once in a firefight with Wladmir Klitschko in November 2014.

“Pulev is named after a great Bulgarian warrior and he has that warrior spirit, he carries the hopes of his nation,” said Joshua. “He is tough, he has a great jab and he will dig deep. He has found a way to beat every opponent, except Klitschko, but I know I have prepared well and I should be victorious.

“I know lockdown has been tough but for me it has been a blessing. I have concentrated on training, on improving my boxing, all year. I haven’t had to do much commercial or promotional stuff, I have had more time with my family and more time to train seriously. And the longer I wait for Fury, the better prepared I’ll be.”