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Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev have reached deal for June 20 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Image: Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev have reached deal for June 20 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

By Tim Royner:  Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev are finally set to go for their heavyweight clash this summer on June 20th at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. The management for both fighters have reached an agreement or this fight to go ahead.

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn had said last week that the deal for the fight with IBF mandatory Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) was near completion, and he saw no problems quickly getting it done. With the deal complete for the Joshua-Pulev fight, the purse bid scheduled for Tuesday has been canceled.

This is a good safe fight for AJ to make sure he doesn’t trip up again like he did last year against Andy Ruiz Jr. Pulev is made to order for Joshua, and this is a fight that the odds-makers will install him as a HUGE favorite.

Joshua has talked a lot about the titles being less important to him than giving the boxing public the fights they want to see. In this case, the titles DO matter to Joshua, since he’s decided to defend his IBF belt against the mandatory Pulev. It’ not a great fight, and it’s a BIG step backward for Joshua from his last 2 contests against Ruiz.

Joshua believes that if he can unify the division, it’ll validate him in the eyes of the boxing public as the #1 guy.  That won’t be the case though. If Joshua is able to unify the heavyweight division in 2020, it’ll mean that he was matched in a strategic way to avoid guys like Oleksandr Usyk and Dillian Whyte.

Fans have no interest in Joshua vs. Pulev

Unfortunately, boxing fans have about as much interest in watching IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) defend against the 38-year-old Pulev as they do in watching Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder battle in a trilogy contest on July 18. There’s just no interest from fans in watching Joshua fight the Bulgarian Pulev.

On paper, this fight is a mere formality for Joshua. He’s got an old, slow and weak opponent in Pulev for him to tee off on in this title defense. Compared to Joshua’s last 2 fights against Andy Ruiz Jr., this should be an easy win for him. With said, Pulev will have a puncher’s chance, and if he can land one of his right-hand shots, he might KO Joshua. Pulev isn’t a puncher, but he doesn’t need to be for him to knockout Joshua, who doesn’t have the greatest chin.

Joshua talks Pulev fight

“On June 20, I am defending my Heavyweight World Titles,” said Joshua. “I’m back in my home city after some time away. A spectacular stadium has been built in North London and I’m honored to bring the boxing community from all over the world to witness us make history with the stadium’s first Heavyweight World Title fight. The belts go back up in the air and nothing will stop me from being victorious.”

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn opted to have him take the easier mandatory defense against Pulev over the much tougher one on paper against his WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk.

Kubrat beat Hughie Fury to become IBF mandatory

Pulev earned the IBF mandatory spot by beating Hughie Fury. The International Boxing Federation was highly criticized for letting Pulev and Hughie fight in an IBF title eliminator because there were arguably far superior contenders that should have gotten the chance. Joseph Parker, Ruiz Jr., Michael Hunter, Adam Kownacki, and Filip Hrgovic are just a small number of ranked heavyweights that should have been given the opportunity to fight in the IBF eliminator rather than Pulev and Hughie.

If Joshua does emerge as the unified heavyweight champion in 2020, it would be nice to see him vacate some of his needless titles so he’s not impeded by having to make constant mandatory title defenses each year.

When a champion holds 4 titles, it basically means all they do is fight mandatory defenses each year, and nothing else. That would be fine if the sanctioning bodies only had talented fighters as their mandatory challengers, but that’s not how it is. We’re seeing a perfect example of a sanctioning body with a weak mandatory challenger with Pulev. If Joshua is wise, he’ll vacate 3 of his 4 titles this year, if he beats Fury to become the unified champion.

Joshua could be fighting Usyk instead

Hearn would likely justify his choice in matching Joshua against Pulev next based on the IBF mandatory being due before the WBO. However, Joshua is expected to vacate the WBO title later this year so that he can potentially face WBC champion Fury in a unification fight. If you look at it logically, Joshua could have given up the IBF title to avoid a fight that boxing fans DON’T want to see in Joshua-Pulev and instead taken the match against Usyk next.

This is obviously a strategic move by Matchroom Boxing promoter Hearn. By letting Usyk go after Joshua’s soon to be vacated WBO title, it potentially sets up a Joshua-Usyk fight next year in 2021. That’s if Joshua defeats Fury in November or December, and that might not happen. In fact, most boxing fans will be betting on Fury to defeat Joshua when two fight.

When it’s all said and done, Joshua would be better off vacating the IBF title and defending against Usyk. Hearn is clearly banking on Joshua and Usyk meeting up next year in a fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship. Under that scenario, Hearn would have only his hands on the gears for the promotion of the fight. It’s not likely not going to happen.


Parker and Usyk could fight for WBO title in late 2020

Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) is facing Dereck Chisora next, which is a winnable fight for the former cruiserweight unified champion. If victorious, Usyk and fellow Matchroom Boxing USA stable fighter Joseph Parker are expected to fight for the vacant WBO title in late 2020. That’s after Joshua vacates the belt when it comes time for him to face Fury.

Pulev’s promoter Bob Arum is so confident that he’s going to beat Joshua, and it makes you wonder what he knows that is giving him such a firm belief that his guy will win. Has Pulev suddenly improved to the point where he can beat a fighter like Joshua? It’s highly unlikely. The 6’4 1/2″ Pulev has never been a puncher, and he certainly won’t be getting any stronger overnight now that he’s nearing 40.

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