Anthony Joshua defends his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight titles against Kubrat Pulev at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20. Will it be a glorious homecoming for AJ or can Pulev shock the world?
READ MORE: ‘The Fall & Rise Of Anthony Joshua’ & get free Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder 3 tips.
Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev Predictions & Tips
Road To Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev
2019 was a rollercoaster year for Anthony Joshua, one the world heavyweight champion will never forget. The former Olympic gold medallist began the year with a flawless 22-0 record that had seen him stop 21 opponents and collect four world title belts in the process, but he had never fought in the United States and it was widely felt like he had to make an impression on the American public before finally stepping inside the ring for a unification fight with then WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
Madison Square Garden in New York City would be the site for Joshua’s US debut and his opponent would be Jarrell Miller. ‘Big Baby’ had crossed back and forth between boxing and kickboxing over the years, but in 2015 he began to focus solely on the sweet science and the wins had begun to pile up, earning him a shot at WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO champion Joshua. However, just weeks before the fight it was announced that Miller had failed a drug test, and that meant promoter Eddie Hearn had to scramble for a short-notice replacement. Andy Ruiz Jr was the man who stepped up to accept the challenge and the rest, as they say, was history.
Ruiz Jr stunning the boxing world as he overcame a knockdown, dropped Joshua four times and forced the referee to wave it off in the seventh round of the contest, becoming the first ever Mexican heavyweight champion in the process. His victory sent shockwaves through the sporting world – how had this ‘fat little Mexican guy’ managed to stop an unbeaten physical specimen like Joshua in such devastating fashion? Had the former champion been ill? Had he really been knocked out in sparring? The conspiracy theories flowed, but to his credit Joshua offered no excuses in the aftermath. He had not been ill. His camp had not been a disaster. And his ring entrance gear had not been too heavy. Joshua had simply been beaten by the better man on the night.
His response to that first career loss was emphatic. Ruiz Jr-Joshua 2 would take place in Saudia Arabia several months later and he exorcised the demons with a dominant win. Joshua had wisely slimmed down for the contest, having been criticised for being too muscular and too heavy for the first meeting, and instead of gambling by standing toe-to-toe with Ruiz Jr and embarking on a slugfest, he wisely used his reach and technique to stay out of trouble and pick apart his June conqueror. The only way that the win would have been more emphatic would have been if Joshua had taken Ruiz Jr out inside the distance, but he did not need to do that. This mission was all about regaining all of the belts and he did that. Now the question was, ‘what is next?’
Talk of a unification clash with Tyson Fury erupted after Fury dethroned Deontay Wilder for the WBC belt in February, but that was quickly washed away by the announcement that the ‘Bronze Bomber’ had invoked a rematch clause and that meant that Joshua’ promoter, Eddie Hearn, had to press on with setting up a bout with the IBF’s mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. The 38-year-old Bulgarian, of course, had been set to challenge Joshua back in October 2017, but injury forced him to withdraw from the contest in the final couple of weeks before the bout was set to take place and he has been forced to wait for another shot at AJ since that date.
In the meantime Pulev has extended his win streak to eight fights. Upon his return from injury he bested Britain’s Hughie Fury over 12 rounds to get the nod from the judges, and he then knocked out Bogdan Dinu inside seven rounds before once again relying on the judges at ringside to hand him a unanimous decision over Rydell Booker in November of last year. But have those wins got him primed for a shot at the world heavyweight title and can he follow Ruiz Jr’s lead by causing a sensational upset at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in June 20? Read on for our free Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev predictions and tips…
Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev Predictions & Tips
We are going to hear throughout the build-up that Pulev is a dangerous opponent for Joshua and that in the heavyweight division everything can change because of one big punch. Then we will be reminded that Joshua has been wobbled several times, was dropped by Wladimir Klitschko and was floored no less than four times by Ruiz Jr. Me personally, I will not be buying that chatter. Pulev has a knockout percentage below 50 percent, has stopped just two opponents in the last eight years and could not even put away Kevin Johnson, who Joshua destroyed in two rounds early in his career.
This fight is Joshua’s to lose and the only way that happens is if he takes Pulev lightly. I do not see that happening at all because he had his ‘Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman’ moment last year when Ruiz Jr repeatedly dropped him on his backside and ripped those world titles away. Joshua showed in the rematch that he had learned many valuable lessons from that first fight and although it was not a sensational performance that people will want to watch in full on YouTube for years to come, it was an accomplished showing that gives me plenty of confidence to back Joshua here.
Of course he is the overwhelming favourite with the bookmakers, so the best way to back the champion for a successful defence is to head into the Round Betting markets. Pulev is not known for devastating punching power but Joshua still has to be careful, so I expect we will see him put on a boxing clinic during the first half of the fight as he stays out of trouble and picks Pulev apart at range. Then when the challenger begins to wear down, I expect Joshua to pour it on to finish the fight and send the hometown crowd home happy.
Joshua to win in Rounds 7-12 and Joshua to win in Rounds 7-9 are both very appealing options, and if you are looking for the bigger odds that come from selecting one round I suggest backing the champion to successfully defend his belts in the seventh. Three of his last nine victories have come in the seventh round, as did his defeat to Ruiz Jr, so perhaps on this night it will be a case of lucky number seven for Joshua and we can all go back to thinking about a huge domestic scrap with Tyson Fury before the end of the year (unless Deontay Wilder somehow spoils those plans, of course).
Joshua v Pulev Tips: Fighter Predictions
Anthony Joshua: “On June 20, I am defending my heavyweight world titles. I’m back in my home city after some time away. A spectacular stadium has been built in north London and I’m honoured to bring the boxing community from all over the world to witness us make history with the stadium’s first heavyweight world title fight. The belts go back up in the air and nothing will stop me from being victorious.”
Kubrat Pulev: “I am happy to have the opportunity to show the world how strong I really am. Becoming a heavyweight world champion has always been my mission in life and on June 20, 2020, I will fulfil my destiny.”