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Pulev to jump ahead of Usyk to face Joshua vs. Ruiz 2 winner

Aleksandr Usyk Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

By Kenneth Friedman: IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev is expected to be the guy that will be facing the winner of the December 7th fight between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua rather than Oleksandr Usyk.

Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) currently holds the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles going into his rematch with Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) on the 7th of December at the Diriyah Arena, in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

IBF and WBO mandatory’s are both due now

The mandatory for the IBF and WBO are both due at the same time. The Matchroom Boxing promoted Usyk is the WBO mandatory challenger, but it looks like he’s going to have to take a backseat to Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs).

According to Pulev’s promoters at Top Rank, he’s the one that will be the one that faces the Joshua-Ruiz rematch winner, and NOT Usyk.

“Kubrat Pulev’s next fight will be for the IBF world heavyweight title,” said Top Rank to “If the Joshua-Ruiz winner decides not to fight Pulev, his next fight will be for the vacant IBF title.”

Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn has already mentioned that the IBF or WBO title might be sacrificed by the Joshua vs. Ruiz winner. It’s said that Joshua prefers to defend against the IBF mandatory Pulev if he can recapture his titles on December 7th.

As for Ruiz, he doesn’t care. He’ll face whoever is determined to come first with those two competing sanctioning bodies. Ruiz says he prefers to face Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs), because that’s a bigger fight.

Pulev could fight for the vacant IBF title

The worst case scenario for Pulev is if the winner of the Joshua vs. Ruiz fight vacates the IBF title. That would mean that Pulev would need to face the highest ranking contender in the IBF’s top 10.

He’d be looking at facing Adam Kownacki (20-0, 15 KOs). That would be a tough fight for Pulev, especially with the way he looked against Booker. Kownacki can punch, and he might have too much youth for Pulev.

“Some belt could become vacant,” Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn said to “Because the IBF and the WBO are both going to order their mandatories after Joshua-Ruiz Jr. Unless a deal can be done with someone, you’ve either got to do that, or vacate.”

Pulev, 38, is coming off of a 10 round unanimous decision win over Rydell Booker (26-3, 13 KOs) on November 9 in Fresno, California. The Bulgarian heavyweight didn’t look overly impressive in pounding out a lackluster decision victory over the 38-year-old Booker. He got the victory, and stayed in line as the IBF mandatory.

Kubrat missed out on title shot against Joshua in 2017

Two years ago, Pulev was scheduled to challenge Joshua on October 28, 2017 in Cardiff, Wales. A shoulder injury for Pulev sidelined him two weeks’ before the fight, and he was replaced by Carlos Takam.

The injury cost Pulev millions. He would have made a lot of money challenging Joshua. However, he’s now in a position to fight for a world title two years later. Pulev says he would like to fight Joshua for the IBF/WBA/WBO titles, but he has no control over what will happen in AJ’s rematch with Ruiz. Joshua might lose that fight. That means Pulev could wind up facing Ruiz instead.

Pulev lost to former IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko by a 5th round knockout in 2014. He was over-matched by the speed, power and athleticism of Wladimir in that fight.

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