Joshua will likely face Pulev after Klitschko

By Boxing News - 12/19/2016 - Comments

Image: Joshua will likely face Pulev after Klitschko

By Jeff Aranow: If everything goes right for IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) in his fight against Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) on April 29, he could be facing his IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (24-1, 13 KOs) in the summer time in the UK. Pulev recently beat Samuel Peter and Dereck Chisora to put himself in the lead position for a title shot against Joshua.

Eddie Hearn, the promoter for Joshua, thinks it’s possible for the 27-year-old Joshua to fight Wladimir, Pulev and WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder all in 2017. That would be a big year for Joshua if he can take all of those fights. For all intents and purposes, Joshua would clear out the heavyweight division if he can beat those three heavyweights next year.

The only guys remaining would be WBO champion Joseph Parker, Luis Ortiz and David Haye. Parker did not look good in beating Andy Ruiz Jr. by a questionable decision this month on December 10 in Auckland, New Zealand. If Parker can get past Klitschko, Wilder and Pulev in 2017, his biggest threats will be Haye and Ortiz.

The 37-year-old Ortiz has been brought down to earth in his last two fights against Dave Allen and Malik Scott. The southpaw Cuban Ortiz looked old and lethargic in both fights, and failed to show that he has the engine to turn fight hard in a sustained manner to get the quick knockouts that we’re seeing from Joshua, Wilder and Haye right now.

“It won’t be long,’ that’s what I said to him. He said, ‘I know, I know,” Hearn said to “It’s a big fight, a wonderful fight, and could be for four belts. Towards the end of the year, I don’t see why not, or certainly early in 2018. They are two young lions, two competitors, and I think it’s important they meet. I think their styles will make a great fight.”

Wilder is hard puncher, but he needs to land his shots perfectly for him to generate the kind of power that makes him a threat to Joshua. When Wilder is too close his opponents and throwing without proper leverage, it makes him no better of a puncher than many of the average heavyweights in the division. Wilder isn’t able to throw with a lot of power in close. His chin is also a question mark right now after he’s been staggered in a couple of his fights against Eric Molina and Nicolai Firtha.

Hearn wants Joshua to collect all the heavyweight titles by 2018. It might not have much meaning though. Some of the contenders in the heavyweight division appear to be better fighters than Wilder and Parker. Joshua may ultimately have more problems beating Haye and Ortiz than he will beating Wilder and Parker if he fights them.

Wilder is expected to be back inside the ring in February against an opponent still to be determined. He’s been out of action with a hand injury from his last fight against Chris Arreola. Wilder was supposed to be fighting the winner of the Alexander Povetkin vs. Bermane Stiverne fight in 2017, but that fight failed to happen after Povetkin’s positive drug test this month.

Wilder could still wind up facing Stiverne if the World Boxing Council chooses to make him the mandatory challenger. Stiverne’s promoter Don King is pushing to have him be Wilder’s No.1 challenger. The WBC might as well let Stiverne face Wilder, because it’s been too long already. Wilder has had four voluntary defenses since winning the WBC title early in 2015.

“He is the mandatory, so after this fight, we’ll [possibly] have to fight Kubrat Pulev and we’ll have to see if we do or do not,” Hearn said about Pulev likely being next for Joshua if he gets past Wladimir. “Obviously, we want to keep the IBF championship, but we’ll have to deal with that after April 29.”

It wouldn’t make sense for Joshua to vacate his IBF title to steer around a very winnable fight against the 35-year-old Pulev. That could prove to be an easier fight for Joshua than his last two fights against Molina and Dominic Breazeale. Pulev fell apart quickly in his 5th round knockout loss to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014.

Since that fight, Pulev has had four easy fights against Georgia Arias, Maurice Harris, Dereck Chisora and Samuel Peter. He’s won all four of them, and looked good considering the level of opposition he’s been facing.

If Hearn wants to make the Joshua vs. Wilder fight before the Pulev mandatory defense, it’s possible he can make that fight. The unification matches are usually allowed to take place ahead of mandatory defenses in most cases. As long as Hearn speaks to the International Boxing Federation to get clearance for Joshua to take the Wilder fight first before Pulev, it should be fine. If the IBF chooses to enforce the mandatory for Joshua against Pulev, then he can always take that fight.

It won’t be a big deal for Joshua. Pulev only has a jab and not much else going for him. His 6’4 ½” size is an asset in his fights against shorter fighters, but against the 6’6” Joshua, Pulev will be the shorter guy and won’t be able to stand on the outside and jab away like he normally does. Pulev would need to find some punching power for him to win that fight.

2017 will be a big year for Joshua. We should see whether the 2912 Olympic gold medalist from Britain has the talent to take over the heavyweight division and carry it on his back for a while.