By Charles Brun: Anthony Joshua is predicting a knockout victory over his IBF mandatory opponent Kubrat Pulev in three months from now on June 20. This will be Joshua’s first defense of his newly won IBF title that he recaptured with a decision win over Andy Ruiz Jr. last December.
Joshua vs. Pulev will be taking place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in Tottenham, London. Like all of Joshua’s fights, it’ll be shown on Sky Sports Box Office.
Pulev is vowing to “fulfill my destiny” when he faces Joshua on June 20, and he seems sure of himself going into this fight. The 38-year-old former amateur star has put together an eight-fight winning streak since losing to former IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko by a 5th round knockout on November 15, 2014.
Although most of the fighters Pulev has beaten in the last 6 years have been run-of-the-mill level opposition, he’s done well against them. Among the mix of commonplace opponents, Pulev has beaten, he has a victory over Dereck Chisora in 2016. Chisora is a good gate-keeper level heavyweight, who challenged for a world title many years ago against WBC champion Vitali Klitschko in 2012.
“I am happy to have the opportunity to show the world how strong I really am,’ said Pulev.
Joshua choosing to face Pulev to keep his IBF belt
“He’s the mandatory challenger and the responsibility of being the newly crowned heavyweight champion of the world, and I’ve got my duties,” said Joshua to IFL TV. “If I don’t, I’ll be stripped of my [IBF] title, which I don’t want to be, because I fought so hard to get them. So, I’m up for the challenge. Good luck to him and I’ll be looking to keep my titles in London.
Fans wouldn’t be bothered if Joshua gave up his IBF title, and moved on to face some of the better heavyweights in the division. There’s no demand from boxing fans to watch Joshua use up one of his valuable fights facing an aging 40-ish heavyweight like Pulev. Joshua could have done much better facing one of these fighters;
- Filip Hrgovic
- Dillian Whyte
- Michael Hunter
AJ says he won’t bring to the Pulev fight the same unpopular style that he used in his win over Ruiz in Saudi. That was the Wladimir Klitschko style of fighting, which saw Joshua using movement, holding and jabbing from the outside.
It was the perfect style for Joshua to defeat the slow-footed 283-lb Ruiz Jr., but it turned off a lot of boxing fans worldwide. Most fans prefer Joshua to fight the way he did before, which involved him going after his opponents with his power game to knock them out.
It had worked for Joshua in his first 22 fights of his career until he met up with Ruiz Jr. last June, and was knocked out in the 7th round at Madison Square Garden in New York. Joshua got careless in the third round after knocking Ruiz down and was hurt by a left hook from him. It was something that could have happened to anyone, but Joshua happened to be the unlucky guy.
Pulev getting second chance to win world title
“The style is what I may not take into the next fight. Styles for me, I can always adapt and change styles, as you see drastically,” said Joshua. “He’s been in the game for a while, and he went to the top level and he got defeated,” said Joshua about Pulev having fought at the top level in losing to Wladimir Klitschko. “So he knows his way around the ring. He’s had his chance at the top level, and he’s coming around back again,” said Joshua.
Pulev was signed to fight Joshua three years ago in October 2017, but he suffered an arm injury and had to pull out of the fight. Joshua subsequently successfully defended his IBF/WBA heavyweight titles in stopping replacement opponent Carlos Takam in the 10th round in Cardiff, Wales. Pulev returned to the ring a year later and defeated Hughie Fury by a 12 round unanimous decision in an IBF title eliminator on October 27, 2018.
It was nice for Pulev that the IBF allowed him to fight in an immediate title eliminator against Hughie despite the fact that he’d been out of the ring for 18 months. That was a questionable move on the IBF’s part in letting the inactive Pulev to fight in an eliminator with him having been out of the ring for 1.5 years going to the fight.
Joshua really didn’t need to change his fighting style after that fight, because it wasn’t as if Ruiz was giving him problems before he was hurt. Nevertheless, he chose to use the Klitschko style for the rematch with Ruiz, and it worked well.
Joshua predicts 11th round knockout of Pulev
“He’s going to probably try and get it right. So I’ll be expecting a more polished, smart Pulev, and he can bang a bit,” said Joshua. “He’s got a few knockouts on his record as well. I think he can bang as well as box. He’s a boxer and a puncher, and it kind of like my style as well, so it’ll be a good match-up.
“People are going to see some skills and probably a knockout as well because you’ve got two boxer/punchers. Round 11,” Joshua said when asked what his prediction is for his fight with Pulev.
AJ needs to go after Pulev early if he wants to make this an easy fight on June 20th, because he’s got the size to trouble him if he’s allowed to stick around.
Joshua doesn’t have a lot to worry about in terms of the knockout threat that Pulev brings to this fight, but he’s a big guy at 6’4 1/2″, 249 lbs. If Pulev puts everything he has into one of his right hands, he could knock out Joshua.
Pulev hasn’t shown that kind of punching power recently in his last 4 fights. He couldn’t knock out journeyman Rydell Booker last November, and he failed to stop Hughie and Kevin Johnson.
Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) has the bad luck of the International Boxing Federation ordering the mandatory defense right now rather than ordering it next year. It’s an ordeal that Joshua must get out of the way before he possibly takes on WBC champion Tyson Fury master this year in December in the UK.