Anthony Joshua has admitted that a taunt from Tyson Fury played a role in his defeat by Oleksandr Usyk last September.

Joshua was comprehensively outpointed by Usyk in north London, surrendering his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles in the process. The pair are now set to rematch this year, likely in spring.

Many pundits were critical of Joshua’s attempts to outbox the undefeated Ukrainian in the opponents’ first meeting, and “AJ” himself has said the tactic might have been misguided.

“Usyk came up from cruiserweight, great fighter, 12-round fighter,” Joshua told Sky Sports.

“I wanted to box with him for 12 rounds, because there was always a stigma that I can’t box, [that] I’m a big, stiff bodybuilder,” Joshua continued, referencing a jibe from fellow British heavyweight Fury.

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“So I said: ‘Alright, cool, let me practise my boxing.’ I tried practising my boxing with Usyk.

“He won nine rounds, I won three. Next fight, I win four more rounds – I win. So, let me simplify that matter, and I’ll then get on the road to being undisputed champion.”

A month after Joshua’s loss to Usyk, Fury retained his WBC heavyweight title in his trilogy bout with Deontay Wilder, knocking out the American for the second fight in a row.

Fury has now been ordered to defend his belt against compatriot Dillian Whyte, with a unification bout against Usyk – or Joshua – potentially next if he can beat the “Body Snatcher”.

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