Eddie Hearn insists Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury can happen in 2018

Anthony Joshua and Eddie Hearn are eyeing a 2018 fight with Wilder. Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Promoter Eddie Hearn insists a potential fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury will happen late 2018 at the earliest.

Fury has not fought for over two years but intends to make a comeback in 2018 after having a doping ban backdated by UK Anti Doping (UKAD) last week.

WBA-IBF world heavyweight titleholder Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) is a regular target for Fury on social media but Hearn believes a fight between the rival Englishmen is perhaps three fights away.

"Anthony needs to be in relevant fights against the likes of Joseph Parker and Deontay Wilder and potentially Tyson Fury at the back end of next year," Hearn told ESPN. "We're not looking for Anthony to have easy fights.

"He will have to be in some epic fights. There are only two reasons it doesn't happen. The first is that Tyson Fury has lost all sense of reality for a deal for that fight with AJ. He wants a lot more than a 50-50 split, which is a joke.

"Second reason is that he can't get himself into a physical condition which is good enough to fight AJ.

"I've talked to Tyson Fury numerous times about it and I don't know if he was having a laugh when he was saying it's a 50-50 split or not, but we're not in a position to talk about that fight anyway for a while.

"Tyson needs one or two fights before he can fight AJ, he needs to get himself properly fit first and he knows that because I've read about him saying that.

"I saw him saying that joking aside he wasn't really doing anything serious [in training] and had a long way to go. He can't really run properly at the moment because he's so heavy so is doing other things.

"It's one thing doing 40 minutes on the cross trainer -- I can do that -- but it's another doing a proper camp, that's when we will find out if he can hold up. He went over on his ankle in one camp [in June 2016, causing rematch with Wladimir Klitschko to be scrapped] and stopped boxing.

"I think there's a chance for it for the end of the year. In an ideal world, AJ would fight three times against Parker, Wilder and Fury. That's a dream land scene but we must fight two of those so if Fury has to wait, then it will be spring 2019 and Anthony is fine with that."

Hearn has guided Joshua's career since the 28-year-old won an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and he is confident that any obstacle with Fury -- rival television companies, purse split -- can be overcome

"We would love the fight with Tyson, AJ wants to be in the biggest fights and that's the biggest fight in British boxing," Hearn told ESPN. "We have shown time and time enough that we can get deal made with difficult parties. Klitschko was one of the hardest people to negotiate with and we got that fight made, so it can be done.

"Anthony is not difficult but he has a value and you have to adhere to that, it's my job to get him the best deal."

Fury, 29, still has considerable weight to lose before he is ring-ready for his first fight since a shock points win over Ukraine's Klitschko in Germany in November 2015, which earned him the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight world titles.

But Fury's life and career then imploded. He tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in February 2015 and was given a back-dated two-year ban by UKAD last week.

Fury, who claims the positive resulted from eating uncastrated wild boar, twice pulled out of a rematch with Klitschko and then claimed he was medically "unfit to fight", citing depression.

After Fury was cleared to fight by UKAD, Hearn expects the British Boxing Board of Control to give back Fury's boxing licence next month but admitted there are still things to consider.

"One thing that is being overlooked in all this is that he received a doping ban," Hearn told ESPN. "That's not really being talked about. If that's the decision that UKAD have made and he has served his ban, then now he's back in the gym.

"But I think the Board will want to deal with other issues like depression and cocaine use. UKAD don't really touch on stuff like that so the Board will want to talk to doctors about his condition and whether he will be fit to box in the future.

"I expect the Board will give him back his licence in January or February. He's talking about fighting again in April but it will be realistically May because he has got a good six or seven stones to lose which is a lot of weight, but he's training at the moment which is a good sign."