It has been over 12 months since unified heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua last set foot in the ring and a slightly longer lay off of 13 months for challenger to the throne, Kubrat Pulev. To close out the year that no one could have predicted boxing’s biggest draw will defend his coveted titles in front of his smallest ever audience.
Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21KO) will step into the ring this coming Saturday night putting his IBF, WBA, WBO, and IBO world titles on the line as he faces IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14KO). Originally scheduled for October of 2017, Joshua was set to defend his then three titles against Pulev in front of 80,000 capacity crowd at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium. Pulev pulled out of the original fight after sustaining an injury in training and was replaced by Carlos Takam. Three years later and should there be no last-minute surprises: Pulev will finally get the opportunity which he has patiently yearned for.
Joshua and Pulev lock eyes | TheBizHub.ng
With all of the pre-fight talk being about an all-British undisputed mega-fight, Joshua knows only too well the danger of overlooking your opponent and the costly setbacks a slip up brings with it. While Joshua’s goal may well be the pursuit of ultimate glory and being crowned the undisputed world heavyweight champion, he surely will not be overlooking the Bulgarian Pulev. Due to covid-19 regulations, Joshua will fight in front of a somewhat, by his standards at least, intimate crowd of only 1,000 fans inside the SSE Arena this coming Saturday, a far cry from the more familiar environment of a raucous 90,000 at Wembley Stadium. Joshua comes into this fight as the reigning and defending IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO champion after successfully winning the titles back 12 months ago as he masterfully outpointed Andy Ruiz Jr. on the sands of Diriyah. Following Joshua’s loss to Ruiz Jr., in the summer of 2019, many questioned Joshua’s bounce-back ability and whether he would be able to right the wrongs in an immediate rematch. Post-loss and pre-rematch mutterings posed questions such as will Joshua be timid and gun shy in the rematch? What about his weight? Is he too muscle-bound? Can he overcome the mental barriers? Joshua weighed in at 237lbs for the rematch, 10lbs less than the first fight and looked considerably slimmed down by comparison. The lighter Joshua bobbed, weaved and jabbed his way to a wide unanimous decision to regain his titles and put on a display of pugilism that many at the time doubted he was capable of. It remains to be seen, and Joshua has given away little in the build-up thus far, about whether the faster feet and less aggressive style is here to stay or whether he intends on reverting to default again against Pulev.
Fleet-footed Joshua boxes his way to victory | SkySports YouTube
Pulev, a man who has long been waiting for his shot at glory, will undoubtedly take some encouragement from knowing the champion he faces has tasted defeat, and will know all too well that if he can cause an upset then glory and riches await him. It is his second bite at the world champion apple but at 39 years old this opportunity certainly isn’t too little, but it may well have come too late for Pulev, who is looking to go one better than his defeat against Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. With the only loss on his record coming against long-reigning heavyweight king Klitschko, Pulev is a man who is used to winning and will look to continue his positive form. Joshua is the fifth British opponent that Pulev has faced, with him having previously fought Matt Skelton and Michael Sprott and, more notably, Dereck Chisora and Hughie Fury. In his most recent battle with Fury, Pulev won by a wide unanimous decision, but it was a fight night that was far from comfortable as Hughie tasted success and, although not known for his power punching, was able to put Pulev on the backfoot and in trouble on several occassions.
Pulev beats the awkward Hughie Fury by wide decision | Boxing technic YouTube
The stark reality of this fight is not if Joshua will win but how will Joshua win. While Pulev may be well-prepared, brimming with motivation and fighting on a belly full of fire, it is undeniable that Joshua, eight years Pulev’s junior, is the faster, stronger, and simply better of the two men. Of course, similar words were written when Joshua went Stateside to face the late replacement Ruiz Jr., and was famously dismantled and dethroned, but Joshua has tasted defeat, he has been on the other side of the table and there’s little chance that he plans on being back there anytime soon.
Will we see Joshua's spiteful side again vs Pulev? | Sky Sports Boxing YouTube
Andy Ruiz Jr – WIN by UD (118-110, 119-109, 118-110) - 07/12/2019 Andy Ruiz Jr. – LOSS by TKO6 - 01/06/2019
Alexander Povetkin– WIN by TKO 7 – 22/09/2018
Joseph Parker – WIN by UD (118-110, 119-109, 118-110) – 31/03/2018
Rydell Booker – WIN by UD (98-92, 99-91, 98-92) – 09/11/2019
Bogdan Dinu – WIN by KO7 – 23/03/2019
Hughie Fury – WIN by UD (117-111, 118-110, 115-113) – 27/10/2018
Kevin Johnson – WIN by UD (119-109, 120-108, 120-108) – 28/04/2017
Date: December 12th 2020
Time: Ring walk approx. 22:30
Venue: SSE Arena, Wembley, England
Channel: Sky Sports Box Office (UK - £24.95) / DAZN (USA)