Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has cast doubt on his proposed mega-fight with Tyson Fury happening next year.

Joshua is projected to fight WBC king Fury in a two-bout series beginning in 2021, but the WBA Super, WBO and IBF champ feels he is more likely to face Ukrainian maestro Oleksandr Usyk instead.

Also promoted by Matchroom, Usyk is the WBO’s No.1 contender and seeking to force his mandated title shot after Joshua faces IBF No.1 Kubrat Pulev at the SSE Arena on December 12. Joshua now feels a bout with Usyk appears the more realistic option with Fury’s motives less clear, in his opinion.

Fury withdrew from a contracted trilogy clash with Deontay Wilder in October, stating that their contract had expired (something the ‘Bronze Bomber’ is contesting via legal means) before a mooted homecoming fight against unbeaten German Agit Kabayel was scrapped in November. 

“When I look at Fury, great talent, but I don’t know whether he’s coming or going,” Joshua told Nick Parkinson of ESPN.co.uk. “I don’t know if he’s going to fight [Deontay] Wilder, or if he’s not going to fight Wilder, if he’s going to fight [Agit] Kabayel, or if he’s not going to fight Kabayel. He announced he was going to fight me, then the deal didn’t get signed and we’re not fighting.

“Then you have got Usyk and he seems to be just straight. You hear he is fighting Derek Chisora and he fights him; you hear he is fighting [Chazz] Witherspoon and he fights him. I go off people who are serious. If Fury is serious and keen then the fight will happen. 

“Honestly, I’m keen to test myself. He’s supposed to have the real boxing IQ, so it’s going to be a really good challenge. I’m keen to compete with him, no problem. But whether he’s ready, that’s a whole other story because of the issues he faces during his career.

“I don’t know what will happen in 2021 but if I was to bet all my money on it I would say Usyk because he is with Matchroom, straightforward fight, and his track record shows when he says he is going to fight someone, he does.”

Fight fans will certainly hope Joshua is playing mind games.