By Matt Lieberman: Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) wore down his IBF challenge Kubrat Pulev (28-2, 14 KOs) to stop him with a one-punch knockout in round nine on Saturday night in front of a small crowd of 1,000 fans at the SSE Arena in London, UK.
Moments after the fight, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn let the media know that they wish to take on WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury next in 2021. We’ll see if that fight happens or not. Joshua has his WBO commitment, and Fury may need to deal with Deontay Wilder.
Referee Deon Dwarte stopped the fight at 2:58 of round nine after Joshua sent Pulev to the canvas with a right to the head. Interestingly, Pulev looked more tired than hurt at that point in the fight. He looked exhausted from the seventh round and took oneway punishment in the 8th
At one point in the eighth, Joshua threw four consecutive uppercuts with one of them landing. The fact that Pulev didn’t take advantage of Joshua’s choosing to throw the same punch repeatedly showed how tired he was.
A good heavyweight would have made Joshua pay if he’d thrown uppercuts one after another, but Pulev looked so tired, so old and so ill-equipped for this fight.
Pulev hit the deck two times in round three, and then twice more in the ninth. One got the sense that Joshua, 30, could have finished the job much earlier in the ninth.
He wasn’t putting his shots together enough to finish the 39-year-old Pulev, who looked closer to 50 than 40. Pulev was very old-looking for his stated age, and he fought like the shell of the fighter he was ten years ago.
The victory for Joshua allowed him to retain his IBF, WBA, and WBO heavyweight titles and puts him on a crash course with WBC champion Tyson Fury for an undisputed championship in 2021.
Pulev rarely threw any punches in the fight aside from occasional jabs and right hands. Most of the punches that Pulev landed were in a clinch with him hitting Joshua with rabbit shots, and body punches.
Pulev shockingly turned his back on Joshua in the third round when he was getting pummeled by punches. The referee should have stopped the fight, but he allowed Pulev time to turn around and then gave him a standing eight count. A lot of referees would have waved it off when a fighter signaling surrender the way that Pulev did.
Despite scoring a ninth-round knockout, Joshua didn’t fight in the same aggressive manner that he had before his knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr last year. Joshua looked tentative throughout as if he was afraid of getting hit by something big from Pulev.
It was clear from the earliest moments of the first that Joshua had nothing to fear from Pulev, as the Bulgarian fighter lacked power and looked thin and weak from his decision to trim down to 239.