SO Tyson Fury versus Anthony Joshua now seems further away than ever.
And Fury taking on Joshua for the undisputed world heavyweight title — a contest which seemed tantalisingly close this summer — is now unlikely to ever take place.
But at least we now know, beyond reasonable doubt, how it would have ended — with a comprehensive victory for Gypsy King Fury.
Most fight fans suspected that after Fury’s demolition of Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in February last year.
Now, after Joshua was outclassed on his way to a unanimous points defeat by Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday night, there cannot even be any serious debate.
Fury has proved he can win world titles in entirely different ways — first by out-boxing a great technician in Wladimir Klitschko, ending the Ukraine fighter’s nine-year dominance of the division back in 2015, and then by over-powering an explosive puncher in Wilder.
In contrast, Joshua has proved he can lose world titles in entirely different ways.
Pummelled into submission in a shock defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, then out-foxed by the cunning southpaw Usyk at Tottenham this weekend.
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If Joshua can suffer a convincing defeat against a supremely skilled smaller heavyweight, such as former undisputed cruiserweight king Usyk, then what chance against a supremely skilled giant like WBC champion Fury?
The career-long contract AJ agreed with promoter Eddie Hearn just last week may now not be as lengthy or as lucrative as either man imagined.
To his credit, Joshua possessed the guts and good grace to face the media at around 1.30am yesterday morning, little more than a couple of hours after surrendering his WBA, IBF and WBO belts to an Usyk masterclass.
There was a brave face from the 31-year-old Brit, who is adamant he will not sulk, that he will learn from his schooling, that he will immediately trigger a rematch clause with Usyk and take on the Ukrainian again in early 2022.
Joshua doesn’t dodge fights, as Hearn keeps reminding us.
And the promoter was not just giving us empty spiel when he said, during the build-up to the Usyk fight, that the Ukrainian was a dangerous opponent, the type who would have been swerved by other champions.
But while any heavyweight underdog has a puncher’s chance of a knockout win, it is difficult to see Joshua avenging Usyk by out-boxing him.
When Joshua was asked about his quest to unite and rule the division — billed as “The Road To Undisputed” — he sounded unconvincing.
He said: “The ‘road to undisputed’ . . . it’s marketing, isn’t it?
“When I pulled up (at the stadium) it reminded me it’s a big circus — it’s the greatest show on Earth.”
Yet “the road to undisputed” was no mere marketing slogan.
It represented Joshua’s stated aim since he turned professional after winning Olympic gold in 2012.
Yes, many millions would still tune in for Fury v Joshua if it ever happened — even with no belts on the line.
But much of the intrigue and prestige will be gone now.
Certainly unless Joshua can defeat Usyk convincingly in the rematch — and there was little evidence of that possibility on Saturday.
Many have pointed to Joshua’s breezy stroll of a ring walk on Saturday as evidence of complacency or arrogance.
But he had not spoken like a man who was taking victory for granted.
His pre-fight camp was intense and focused and, even during the build-up, he was talking about getting back into the gym straightaway, of his dedication to his art.
Joshua spoke of defeat by Usyk as an education and a blessing.
Trainer Rob McCracken, and Hearn, are both adamant their man will be much-improved next time but it sounded like wishful thinking.
While defeat by Ruiz — an inferior fighter, who got lucky, then failed to prepare properly for the rematch — was always likely to be swiftly avenged, the same cannot be said for Joshua’s prospects against Usyk next time.
For the first time in his professional career, Joshua will head into the rematch as a clear underdog.
He will need to muster the performance of his life to win back those belts.
Fury, meanwhile, completes his trilogy with Wilder in Las Vegas on Saturday week, knowing his greatest potential payday — that elusive Joshua fight — may never materialise.
Fury versus Usyk would never be as lucrative. But it is now the fight the world wants to witness.