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Joshua vs. Pulev a done deal for 12/12 at the O2 in London, UK

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

By Chris Williams: It’s official today that IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will be facing his mandatory with the IBF Kubrat Pulev on December 12th in London, England.

Pulev is the perfect opponent for Joshua to look good against, as the Bulgarian fighter has proven to be vulnerable to fighters that throw lead left hooks. That’s a punch that Joshua likes to throw, and he’s able to get a lot of power on those shots.

The match will be shown on DAZN in the United States and Sky Sports Box Office in the UK.

Joshua needs this win

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

The 2012 Olympic gold medalist Joshua needs to beat Pulev to get to his 2021 undisputed heavyweight match against WBC champion Tyson Fury. Joshua, 31, cannot afford to lose to Pulev if he wants to meet up with Fury next year.

Fury has his own preliminary match against an opponent still to be determined on December 5th in the UK. However, Fury is expected to take an easier fight against possible Agit Kabayel, a short fighter with no power or hand speed.

Joshua’s title defense against Pulev isn’t a huge fight to where boxing fans are eager to see it, but AJ’s popularity means that all of his bouts are shown on PPV in the UK. If he were fighting in the States, he would have problems trying to sell his title defense against 39-year-old Pulev to the public. They likely would pass on this fight.

The Joshua-Pulev contest will be taking place at the O2 Arena. As of Friday, there won’t be facing in attendance for the fight. AJ is still hoping that boxing fans will be allowed to attend the fight.

We still have two months to go before these two giants face off on December 12th, so there’s a shot that we could have fans allowed by then, but it’s not likely.

Joshua wants Pulev match in front of fans

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

“Without the fans something huge is missing. I am really hoping that, safety permitting, we might be able to bring some boxing fans in, but we will have to see,” said Joshua.

Pulev earned his title shot against Joshua by beating Hughie Fury by a 12 round unanimous decision in an IBF title eliminator two years ago in October 2018. Kubrat has been waiting patiently ever since for his title shot.

The British boxing fans are probably more excited about seeing Joshua face the old warhorse Pulev than the Americans, as it’s not a fight that registers. U.S fans want to see Joshua face Fury. Pulev is like a speed bump, and Joshua is likely to get him out of there within five rounds.

Three years ago, Pulev was supposed to challenge Joshua for his IBF title as his mandatory in October 2017. However, Pulev suffered an arm injury during training for the fight and was forced to pull out several weeks before the match. Carlos Takam then stepped in as the replacement and fought Joshua for his IBF/WBA heavyweight titles on October 28, 2017.

Pulev needs to make it through training camp

Hopefully, for Pulev’s sake, he stays injury-free through training camp and can make it to the fight on December 12th to challenge Joshua. At Pulev’s age, there are no guarantees that he’ll make it through training camp.

The 39-year-old Pulev is no spring chicken and probably would have never gotten a title shot if the International Boxing Federation hadn’t given Hughie a high ranking with their organization.

It was an odd ranking by the IBF at the time in giving Hughie the top spot, as he’d never beaten anyone of note during his career. Now two years later, Hughie isn’t ranked in the IBF’s top 15, and talented fighters are now ranked near the top:

  • Oleksandr Usyk
  • Michael Hunter
  • Andy Ruiz, Jr.
  • Filip Hrgovic

If Pulev had to beat one of those guys to become the IBF mandatory instead of Hughie, he likely wouldn’t be the one fighting for the title against Joshua on December 12th.

Arum confident Pulev will win

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

Pulev’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank seems confident that he’s going to beat Joshua. Maybe Pulev will, but his age and his lack of punching power are willing against him.

Eddie Hearn better watch out. Kubrat Pulev is going to destroy his plan for a Joshua-Tyson Fury unification fight,” said Arum.

It’s better for Arum if Joshua beats Pulev because there’ a lot more money at stake with a Joshua-Fury fight. U.S boxing fans wouldn’t be interested in seeing Pulev face Fury.

Arum might just be rooting for Pulev for appearances so that he can let his fighter know that he’s still backing him. It’s a  tricky situation with Arum because he’s got Fury and Pulev in his Top Rank stable.

“December 12 is the date and once again the Heavyweight belts go up in the air and it is my sole focus to make sure that come December 13 they are in their rightful place in the UK,” said Joshua.

The way that Joshua has looked in his last three fights, you can’t rule out a win for Pulev because he’s not a great talent. Yeah, Joshua is fun to watch, and he has a lot of power and size going for him, but he’s fragile. He can’t take a punch, and his stamina is among the worst in the division in terms of the top guys.

If Pulev can fight at a fast pace and land something, he might win. Pulev is pretty flawed, too, though.

Kubrat’s resume is weak

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

The 6’4 1/2″ Bulgarian Pulev has fought only one good fighter in his career in former IBF/WBA/WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, and he was blown out in five rounds by him.

Besides that, Pulev has been fighting mostly lower-level opposition during his entire career, which is sad because he should have fought much better fighters.

The management for Pulev hasn’t gotten around to putting him in with risky guys like Dillian Whyte, Filip Hrgovic, Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker, Andy Ruiz Jr, or Luis Ortiz.

Pulev’s best wins:

  • Dereck Chisora
  • Hughie Fury
  • Alexander Ustinov
  • Tony Thompson
  • Derric Rossy
  • Alexander Dimitrenko
  • Dominick Guinn
  • Matt Skelton

It’s disappointing that these are the best wins of Pulev’s career because he’s not getting a second world title shot. You can argue that if Pulev had fought a good opponent in his title eliminators, he would have never gotten a world title shot.

Joshua’s best wins:

  • Wladimir Klitschko
  • Alexander Povetkin
  • Joseph Parker
  • Andy Ruiz Jr
  • Charles Martin
  • Carlos Takam
  • Dillian Whyte

That’s it for Joshua. Like Pulev, Joshua’s resume isn’t deep on quality wins, but here he is the IBF, WBA, and WBO champion.

Will Joshua slug against Pulev?

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

“The date is December 12th and the place is London,” said Chris Mannix to DAZN on the Joshua vs. Pulev fight. “What do you want to see from Anthony Joshua in this fight?”

“I want to see the return of one of the biggest puncher’s in boxing, a man that knocked out 21 consecutive opponents, and a man that when we called the Andy Ruiz fight, said that he was one of the most composed and ferocious finishers,” said Sergio Mora.

“I’m still watching this. That’s who I want to see return to the ring, that Joshua. And if we get to see that in a full arena when we finally get fans, we got the return of one of the kings.”

“Yeah, I want to see the Joshua of old, the guy that throws power punches and takes some risks that goes in there looking for knockouts,” said Mannix. “I understand against Andy Ruiz there was an element of anxiousness, nervousness, being a little gunshy.

“He didn’t want to go in there and engage with a guy that knocked him out just six months prior. But Kubrat Pulev is a different type of fighter. Andy Ruiz has one of the best chins in all of boxing. Kubrat Pulev does not.

“He’s certainly a worthy title-challenger at this point. He’s won eight fights in a row since his loss to Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014, but he’s 39-years-old. In his loss to Wladimir Klitschko, he was just steamrolled.

“Wladimir just beat him down, knocked him down. and beat him up. I think AJ can have the same type of impact in this fight. I don’t want to see more of the technical AJ. I want to see AJ go out there and try and finish. I think that could be a good warm-up.

I think that style would be a good test to prepare for Tyson Fury. If you’re Anthony Joshua, you’re not going to outbox Tyson Fury when you face him in 2021. Tyson is a better boxer.

AJ has the power

What you can do is hurt Tyson Fury and finish Tyson Fury. So if I’m Joshua, I’m using this as something of a dress rehearsal for Tyson Fury fight. To go out there and try and finish him in the same way. He’s probably going to have to finish Fury if he’s to win that fight.”

Anthony Joshua Kubrat Pulev

“You know that he’s one of the biggest punchers in boxing, and now we know that he’s smart enough to be able to box for 12 rounds and maintain a strategy like he did in the rematch with Andy Ruiz,” said Mora about Joshua.

“But that was just for that fight [against Ruiz]. I don’t think that’s his style or his temperament. I think we’re going to see the Joshua of old, especially against a 39-year-old.”

“Did you think in the early 2000s that Wladimir Klitschko would become what he became under Emanuel Steward?” said Mannix. “Before that, Wladimir was kind of a wrecking ball in the ring.

“He was going in there exchanging, not really using his size the way he did late in his career. I wonder if we saw the beginning of something with Anthony Joshua where he’s going to fight differently for the rest of his career in the same way that Klitschko did?”

“Usually as fighters age and they mature, they slow down and they become the opposite,” said Mora. “They don’t become boxers. They become punchers because they don’t have the legs to do it anymore.

“‘Joshua just did that for the Andy Ruiz [second] fight. I think we’re going to see the puncher of old. He’s not a boxer. He’s a devastating combination puncher. That’s what Joshua is.”


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