Kubrat Pulev vs. Kevin Johnson – Results
By Jim Dower: Heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs) defeated 37-year-old former world title challenger Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson (30-8-1, 14 KOs) by an ugly foul plagued 12 round unanimous decision on Friday night at the Armeec Arena in Sofia, Bulgaria. The 35-year-old Pulev got away with an awful lot of fouls in the fight as far as holding and hitting and rabbit punches. Pulev will now fight the the winner of Klitschko – Joshua, according to Kalle Sauerland
The rabbit punches from the 6’4 ½” Pulev were constant all throughout the fight. Referee Terry O’Connor gave Pulev a warning for the punches behind the head in round 8, but that did little to stop them. In some cases, Johnson was lowering his head, and Pulev had little choice but to throw to the back of the head. But a lot of times, Pulev was hitting Johnson with rabbit punches in the clinch, and the referee didn’t stop the action to take points off.
The judges’ scores were 120-108, 120-108, and 119-109. Boxing News 24 scored the fight 120-108 for Pulev.
The 6’3” Johnson was able to land some nice shots in each round. His problem was he didn’t land enough. Like in his loss to former WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko in December 2009, Johnson was fighting with his back to the ropes for the entire 12 rounds. Johnson would lean back against the ropes to make it difficult for Pulev to hit him. This forced Pulev to come forward and throw a lot of chopping shots that came straight down. However, Pulev’s accuracy was poor, as he would miss his shots over and over again.
Starting from round 3, Pulev would hook his left arm around the back of Johnson’s head and hold it there while he would hit him with right uppercuts and straight right hands. The referee did a poor job of controlling Pulev’s holding and hitting. It was pretty surprising because the fouling was constant from Pulev. It was hard to watch.
It’s unclear what kept the referee Terry O’Connor from stepping in and disqualifying Pulev for the fouls. It wasn’t just a point deduction that should have been taken off. I think Pulev should have been disqualified for his fouling. Johnson could have avoided some of the rabbit shots and holding and hitting if he’d stayed in the center of the ring and jabbed and moved. Johnson wasn’t able to stay in the center of the ring. It looked as if his stamina wasn’t good enough for him to fight hard and stay in the middle of the round.
Johnson wore down as the fight went into the second half. By the 9th, Johnson looked completely exhausted and stayed on the ropes looking to escape punishment from Pulev. That made things worse for Johnson because it presented a stationary target for Pulev to jab and hit with his right hand power shots. Pulev didn’t throw many body shots, which was a mistake because Johnson’s midsection was there to be hit if he wanted to aim his shots there.
Besides the fouling by Pulev, it wasn’t an impressive performance from him. He was getting hit with a lot of single power shots from Johnson in the first half of the fight. Pulev was lucky that Johnson couldn’t punch, because he would have trouble if he could.
The win for Pulev keeps him in the hunt for a world title shot. Pulev is currently ranked IBF #2, WBC #3, WBO #5, and WBA #9. This was Pulev’s fifth straight win since losing to Wladimir Klitschko by a 5th round knockout on November 15, 2014. For the most part, Pulev has taken it easy with the opposition he’s been fighting since his loss to Klitschko. He did beat former world title challenger Dereck Chisora by a 12 round split decision last year in May 2016.
Other than that fight, Pulev has beaten strictly old journeyman fighters in Georgia Arias, Maurice Harris, Samuel Peter and Kevin Johnson. Pulev is going to have problems when/if he faces Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder. Pulev doesn’t have the punching power to compete with those guys, and he’ll likely get knocked out by both of them. I would favor Wladimir to knockout Pulev again if the two of them fought each other. Pulev hasn’t declined since his loss to Wladimir, but he also hasn’t improved. He’s the same fighter that Wladimir kept knocking down with left hooks.
In looking at the fight tonight, it’s easy to see why Wladimir Klitschko was able to destroy Pulev in 2014. Pulev is very slow and upright, and his fighting style is made to order for Wladimir. Pulev doesn’t have much punching power, and he telegraphs his right hands. He lets you know when he’s going to throw his right because he throws from a long ways away. He countered easily. Johnson didn’t have the talent or the power to take advantage of Pulev’s flaws the way that Wladimir did. At 37, Johnson still has good boxing skills, but he doesn’t well enough and his punching power is inadequate.
The loss for Kevin Johnson was his 7th in his last 9 fights dating back to 2012. Johnson’s only wins in the last 5 years have come against Jamal Woods and Solomon Haumono. He’s been beaten by Anthony Joshua, Dereck Chisora, Manuel Charr, Tyson Fury, Christian Hammer and Tor Hamer. Up until 2012, Johnson had only been beaten once in his career. Johnson was a good heavyweight in the first 9 years of his career. Things turned sour for Johnson since he was beaten by Tor Hammer in June 2012. Everything has gone downhill for him since that fight.
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