Anthony Joshua vs. Kubrat Pulev close to being done
By Tim Royner: It looks like Anthony Joshua and his promoter at Matchroom Boxing have decided to take the fight with IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev for is next title defense rather than facing WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk. Pulev’s representative John Wirt is reporting to ESPN that they are “very close” to having an agreement for the Joshua fight.
The International Boxing Federation has extended the deadline to get the Joshua-Pulev deal done until January 31.
Pulev = easier option for Joshua than Usyk
The venue will need to be decided, and they’ll be receiving offers from different countries. It’s hard to imagine Saudi Arabia electing to stage the Joshua vs. Pulev fight in their country, as it’s not expected to be a huge event. Pulev is 38-years-old, slow, and not much of a puncher. Usyk would have been a REALLY risky fight for Joshua, and he doesn’t need that right now. Joshua is trying to regain his shattered self confidence was ripped apart in his 7th round loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.
Although Pulev has won his last eight fights, he’s a mixed of journeyman and bottom fringe contenders. He’s not taken on anyone dangerous since his title shot against former IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, which went badly for him. Wladimir crushed Pulev in stopping him in 5 one-sided rounds.
In Pulev’s last fight against 38-year-old Rydell Booker, he labored to a 10 round decision. Both guys looked old, and pretty well passed it. Off of that performance, Pulev will be fortunate if he makes it beyond the 3rd round against Joshua. That’s the old AJ. The new Joshua might might be too timid to pull the trigger to get Pulev out of there.
“We are very close in my opinion, but the real issue is everyone’s trying to vet offers [from sites] that are coming in from all over,” Pulev’s rep Wirt said to ESPN.com. “The only continents not in play to my knowledge are Antarctica and Australia.”
It was always expected that Joshua would take the fight with Pulev rather than going in the direction of WBO mandatory Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs), because it’s an easier fight. Moreover, Matchroom promotes Usyk, so it’s not a problem for them to setup a fight between him and Joshua at a later date.
WBO could strip Joshua of title
What we don’t know right now is if the World Boxing Organization will strip Joshua of his WBO title for not taking the fight with Usyk first. If that’s the case, then Usyk will likely face Joseph Parker for the vacant WBO title. That would be a situation that would work in Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn’s favor, seeing that he would have two of his own heavyweights competing for the WBO belt.
It’s still unclear whether the WBO will insist on Joshua facing Usyk next. Joshua wants to keep the WBO title if possible, being that he wants to unify the division to become the undisputed. Losing the WBO belt will make things a little tougher by creating an additional step for Joshua with him needing to win back the title later on.
Hearn has already said that he’s hoping that Tyson Fury defeats Wilder in their fight next month on February 22, considering that he believes it’ll be easier to make a Joshua-Fury fight. Also, Fury is far less dangerous to Joshua than Wilder. Joshua’s ability to take a hard shot was exposed recently with his knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. last June.
While Joshua did win the rematch with Ruiz, he did it by copyig Wladimir Klitschko’s old safety-first style of fighting by running around the ring, jabbing, holding and throwing only single punches.
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