Undercard Action From Wembley Arena - Joshua v Pulev - Preview

The return of Anthony Joshua, Great Britain’s superstar heavyweight champion, is almost upon us. ‘AJ’ will walk to the ring on Saturday night for the first time in over a year, since he regained his titles in the rematch with Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia.

This is Joshua's first fight since December 2019 when he regained his titles in Saudi Arabia (Photo: Sky Sports)


However, before the big one, we have a stellar undercard to back up this cracking main event.


First up is new Matchroom signing Florian Marku, who takes on Alex Fearon in a welterweight contest. Marku only recently put pen to paper on a deal with Matchroom, but has been very vocal of his aspirations and plans.


The Albanian superstar has been calling out the likes of Conor Benn for over a year now, and winning on Saturday night will certainly help his case in his chase of the big fights at 147 pounds. The 28-year-old is an unknown quantity, but has no shortage of confidence, which can only stand him in good stead for the future.


Also featuring on the undercard is the highly touted Qais Ashfaq, who will be looking to get back to winning ways after suffering the first loss of his career last time out. Ashfaq was outclassed by Marc Leach, losing via unanimous decision after also suffering two knockdowns during the bout.


However, this will have been a great learning fight for the 27-year-old, who will be keen to put on an impressive display and remind fans of his undoubtable talent. The Yorkshireman faces Ashley Lane over eight rounds in a super-bantamweight contest, with his opponent having been inactive for almost 18 months. That being said, Ashfaq will be chomping at the bit to get his career back on track, after the slight bump in the road against Leach.


A late replacement fight sees Kieron Conway take on Macaulay McGowan in a super-welterweight contest.


The 24-year-old was originally scheduled to fight Souleymane Sissoko in what was a potentially mouth-watering contest, however the Frenchman was forced to pull out of the fight.


Conway’s only defeat came in strange circumstances in a three rounder last year against Derrick Osaze. Apart from that, Conway has hugely impressed as a professional, with a notable draw against Ted Cheeseman also on his record, which many people think was a Conway victory.


Conway is expected to win, but McGowan is as game as they come and has only suffered the one loss. He was defeated by Tursynbay Kulakhmet last month, but put up a brave fight the whole ten rounds. However, the British boxing public know that Conway has talent in abundance and should put on a clinical performance at the weekend.


Next up, the first of a heavyweight triple header sees Martin Bakole take on Sergey Kuzmin for the WBC International heavyweight title. On paper, this is a very intriguing fight, with both men still having world title aspirations. It seems like it could be a fight where there is a long road back for the loser, whereas the winner could propel himself right into the fringe world title mix.


Both men have identical records, with 15 wins and just the one defeat. Ironically, both of their losses came at the hands of Michael Hunter, who himself has world title aspirations.

Martin Bakole aims to throw himself into the world heavyweight mix with a win on Saturday night (Photo: Sky Sports)


This fight is really difficult to call, with a case for both men being totally justifiable. In Bakole, you have a man who seems to have lost all momentum since his defeat to Hunter, but that is very much still a relevant name in heavyweight division. This will be the first time in over a year that the 6”6 powerhouse will have stepped foot in the ring, but Bakole is adamant he has the beating of anyone in the heavyweight division, so a win on Saturday would make a real statement.


Likewise with Kuzmin, his career was flying until that loss off Hunter. This is actually Kuzmin’s first fight since tasting that defeat, almost 15 months ago, so neither man has been especially active in the past year, which is understandable given the current situation worldwide. A fight which has all the makings of a cracker, with both men looking to make a statement and throw their name into the mix of an ever growing heavyweight landscape.


The second heavyweight contest of the night at Wembley Arena sees Hughie Fury take on Mariusz Wach.


This is a perfect fight for Fury to throw his name back into the mix, with many people expecting a relatively easy night for the cousin of Tyson. Fury has lost on three occasions, albeit to world class operators, but is still young at the tender age of 26 and certainly has a bright future ahead of him. Wach is a good name to get on your record, with his six defeats only coming to world class fighters, so a win for Fury would look good on his resume and give him the confidence that he can very much be a major player in a stacked heavyweight division.


The last undercard fight of the evening, sees British cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie take on Nikodem Jezewski, after his world title fight against Krysztof Glowacki got cancelled due to the Polish cruiserweight testing positive for COVID-19.

Okolie will have hopes of getting that world title shot, if he comes through Saturday night unscathed (Photo: Sky Sports)


Since turning professional back in 2017, Okolie’s rise to fringe world title level has to be admired. Although at times criticised for his style and habit of holding, there is no questioning the power of ‘The Sauce’. The 27-year-old has stopped eleven of his 14 opponents, having outpointed the other three with relative ease.


He will be aggrieved that he isn’t fighting for the vacant WBO world title on Saturday night, but Okolie must get through this test, before firming setting his sights on lifting that world title belt in 2021.


Then comes the main event. The big one. The return of Anthony Joshua.


Joshua was last in the ring almost a year ago to the day, when he avenged his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr, comprehensively outpointing the first Mexican heavyweight champion in history and, in the process, regaining his WBA super, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles.


Joshua faces Kubrant Pulev, his IBF mandatory challenger, who has been patiently waiting for his chance for almost three years. The Bulgarians only defeat was back in 2014 to Wladimir Klitschko.


Although Joshua is expected to put on a clinic performance and get rid of Pulev emphatically, the 39-year-old is very much a live opponent and he is confident that he can get the job done against the British superstar.


All roads lead towards and huge 2021, with Joshua and Tyson Fury scheduled to meet at least twice, if Joshua comes through unscathed at the weekend. But first, Joshua must first beat Pulev to set up a mouth-watering 2021.

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Date: Saturday 12th December 2020

Time: Undercard action from approx. 19.00

Venue: Wembley Arena, London

Channel: Sky Sports Box Office

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