By Charles Brun: Carl Froch says he wouldn’t let Anthony Joshua face Tyson Fury right now unless he comes out firing tonight and destroys Kubrat Pulev with an impressive knockout at the Wembley Arena in London, England.
Joshua’s “gunshy” timid performance in his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr last December in Saudi Arabia wasn’t the type of showing that suggests that AJ is ready for the likes of WBC heavyweight champion Fury.
IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Joshua (23-1, 1 KO) will have his straps on the line tonight when he faces challenger Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) in front of 1,000 fans at the SSE Arena in Wembley.
Froch thinks that having fans present should, in theory, boost Joshua’s game to another level, as they’ll be cheering for him, not Pulev.
But that may not matter, considering that Pulev is mentally strong, and he won’t care if he’s fighting in a hostile environment.
Froch wouldn’t put Joshua in with Fury now
“I don’t think he’s that close to Fury; I really don’t. If I were managing him, I wouldn’t want to see AJ go in there with Tyson Fury now,” said Froch.
“I’d be concerned about that fight, and I think a lot of people would pick Fury to win.”
“It looked like a quit, but it was a strange stoppage, to say the least,” said Froch about Joshua’s loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019. “A lot of people weren’t impressed with the way he [Joshua] did the rematch.
“He obviously did the job; he got the belts back. He was out in Saudi, and there was a lot of pressure on him. The rematch with Ruiz didn’t tell me much.
“Pulev is quite well-schooled. He only has one loss, and that was to [Wladimir] Klitschko. It was a five-round KO. That was the best Klitschko.
“A lot of people argue that when AJ fought Klitschko, he wasn’t at his best. He’d been sitting on his soft for 18 months, kind of retired. He [Joshua] nearly got done in that fight [with Wladimir].
“The 1000 fans will be cheering AJ. So that’s a positive for AJ from his point of view,” said Froch.
It would almost be criminal to throw Joshua in with Fury (30-0-1, 21 KOs) right now, and it might not matter how good AJ looks tonight.
Joshua isn’t ready for a fighter like Fury and needs more experience against taller fighters.
Although it would be helpful for Joshua to destroy the 39-year-old Pulev, it still won’t be a big enough victory to assume he’d do well against Fury.
What Joshua needs are victories over the likes of Joe Joyce, Filip Hrgovic, Oleksandr Usyk, and Andy Ruiz Jr to help him prepare for Fury. Joshua must show that he’s got his courage back.
Arum views Joshua as a shot fighter
“His main substation to his claims is AJ is a shot fighter,” said Froch about Pulev’s promoter Bob Arum believing Joshua is over-the-hill at 30. “He’s basing it on his [Joshua] loss to Ruiz.
“Let’s be honest, that was a crushing defeat. Joshua kind of spat his gumshield out and pulled himself out of the fight.
“He kind of submitted. AJ got badly beat up, and he was forced to pull himself out of the fight. He quit.
“So Bob Arum is looking at all of that and thinking, ‘Hang on a minute. How good is Ruiz? He’s not a massive knockout puncher.’
“He was able to do that to Joshua. And in the rematch with AJ, AJ came and did what he had to do to get the belts back. I can’t be impressed with that performance because of the size and shape Ruiz turned up in.
“He was 20 plus stone. Nobody is that big that can move around the ring. Any decent heavyweight on that night would have been able to box and move and beat Ruiz.
Chilly but chilled 🌬 pic.twitter.com/THmJyfoAys
— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) December 12, 2020
“I don’t think Bob Arum seen anything in that rematch and with the first fight with Ruiz. Arum is thinking to himself, ‘I’m not impressed with AJ. I don’t see what all the hype is about,'” said Froch.
What Arum means by his view of Joshua as being a shot fighter is he sees him as mentally shot, which is something that he may not be able to correct.
Once a fighter loses it mentally, it’s almost impossible to bring them back to the state they were before.
Joshua’s loss to Ruiz Jr last year destroyed him mentally, and he may not be able ever to fight the way he once did.
Joshua didn’t erase doubts
“AJ was just focusing on winning that fight on points, and it was made easier due to the size of Ruiz,” Froch continued. “He just boxed and moved to a plan and got the belts back.
“But unfortunately, that kind of performance doesn’t convince me or anybody else that he’s ready to jump in with Tyson Fury and do a job on him.
“That’s what Bob Arum was saying. We’ve got to see something more special than what we saw in Saudi that night [from Joshua], and we’ve got to see more from AJ than just boxing and moving and sticking his jab out and outworking the older man.
“Pulev is 39-years-old. I’m sure he’s [Joshua] fitter and faster because he’s younger and more athletic naturally. If Joshua just boxes and moves, he’s not going to convince anybody he can beat Fury.
“He might not want to take any more risks. ‘After the Ruiz loss, I don’t want to get punched on the chin anymore.’ I don’t want to see this negative gunshy Anthony Joshua that we saw in Saudi.
“He was getting out of harm’s way as fast as he could rather than landing another combination. There’s nothing wrong with boxing to a plan, but don’t start thinking that Anthony Joshua can go in a ring with Tyson Fury and outbox him.
“The only way he’s going to beat someone like Tyson Fury is to take it to him. Tyson Fury isn’t a massive puncher, Kubrat Pulev isn’t a massive puncher, and neither is Ruiz,” said Froch.
Carl is asking the impossible of Joshua by wanting him to come out firing on all eight cylinders and show that he’s still the same fighter he was before his catastrophic loss to Ruiz.
What Joshua needs is a mind transplant right now. If you take Froch’s aggressive mindset and instill it, Joshua, he’d likely tear Pulev to ribbons tonight.
But the Joshua that we saw against Ruiz a year ago in Saudi will be vulnerable against Pulev, who thrives against fighters that try and box him from the outside. Pulev has a better jab than Joshua, and he’s very tricky.
AJ needs an emphatic win over Pulev
“He knows he can be hurt,” said Froch of Joshua. “AJ should show me in this fight against Pulev that he can box and move like he did against Pulev, put three or four rounds in the bank…don’t just continue to win it on points.
“He needs to get in front of Pulev and let big, heavy shots go. Back him up and smash him to bits. Smash him to pieces because that’s going to show people and make a statement.
“It’s also going to make AJ feel confident that he can do what he used to do. He needs to get in front of Pulev and get the job done in style.
“Then we’re going to start believing he can beat Fury. He needs to do it for himself because he needs to know in his own mind that he can stay in the pocket, in close, and get the job done.
“Get in there, put it on Pulev, and finish him off. Give us something to get excited about, and make yourself feel good about boxing again.
“That’s gone from that loss to Ruiz. I’ve not seen it. It’s been a year out, and we need to see it on Saturday night. In the second half of the fight, he’s going to need to stand in range,” said Froch.
If Joshua wants to show the boxing public that he’s 100% mentally there and ready for the first of two fights against Fury in 2021, he’ll destroy Pulev within five rounds tonight.
Wladimir Klitschko destroyed a better version of Pulev six years ago in 2014 with a fifth-round knockout, and he wasn’t young at age 36. For Joshua to show that he’s ready for Fury, he must blast Pulev out within five rounds.