Anthony Joshua puts his WBA (Super). IBO, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles on the line against Kubrat Pulev on December 12 – but who exactly is Kubrat Pulev?
Joshua v Pulev Preview: Who Is Kubrat Pulev?
The 39-year-old Bulgarian, who is nicknamed ‘The Cobra’, has been a professional boxer since 2009 and despite having held the IBF International title, European heavyweight title and the WBA Inter-Continental title, this is only his second every major title fight.
The one and only title opportunity came in 2014 when he travelled to Germany to take on Wladimir Klitschko. He was knocked out in the fifth round and that has been his only defeat to date.
As an amateur, Pulev won Gold medals at the European Championships in Liverpool and the EU Amateur Boxing Championships in Madrid. Since making his professional debut, Pulev has fought 29 times with 28 wins and just that one loss. He has won 14 by knockout with the remaining 13 by decision.
You may still be thinking, ‘why do I know Kubrat Pulev?’ Well you should do, he was scheduled to fight Joshua at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on October 28, 2017. The fight was cancelled 12 days before the bout because Pulev had picked up an injury. Carlos Takam took his place and put in a strong performance before being stopped in the 10th round.
It has taken a long time for Pulev to get back in the title reckoning and he will be determined to take his chance in London on December 12.
Joshua v Pulev Preview: What Is Pulev’s Record?
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Joshua v Pulev Preview: How Good Is Pulev?
I’ve already mentioned that Pulev has only been beaten once and that was against Klitschko, and only five men have ever beaten the Ukrainian.
It would be unfair to say that Pulev has just fought nobodies throughout his career, but there are not that many big names on his résumé.
His 14th professional fight saw him claim the vacant IBF International heavyweight title with a unanimous decision win over American Travis Walker. His first title defence then saw him defeat Britain’s Michael Sprott after the Brit retired in the ninth.
The level of opponents started to improve after the Sprott fight, he defeated both Alexander Dimitrenko and Alexander Ustinov with 11th round knockouts, before taking another unanimous decision scalp over Tony Thompson.
Pulev was starting to get a reputation as a decent heavyweight, he then made both Joey Abell and Ivica Perkovic retire before getting his title shot against Klitschko. Pulev was no match for the Ukrainian as Klitschko ended it in the fight round.
Pulev had to start again in terms of rebuilding his reputation, he won two fights in succession against George Arias and Maurice Harris before landing a title shot at the vacant European heavyweight belt when he went up against Dereck Chisora at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany.
At that time, Chisora wasn’t really seen as a threat to any of the major heavyweight fighters, but now it looks like a decent win for Pulev. The Bulgarian got a split decision victory after 12 rounds, despite looking like he dominated the whole fight.
Victories over Samuel Peter and Kevin Johnson put the spotlight back on Pulev and he agreed a title fight with Joshua in Cardiff. Everything was ready to go, they had taken part in the press conference and the fight build-up was underway, until it was revealed that Pulev had sustained a shoulder injury and was forced to withdraw.
His first fight after withdrawing from the Joshua bout was against Hughie Fury – the cousin of Tyson – Pulev had no real problems against the Brit and won unanimously on points. He has since claimed a knockout win over Bogdan Dinu and a points victory over Rydell Booker – but there is nothing there that would really worry Joshua.
Joshua v Pulev Preview: Why Was Pulev Banned From Boxing?
Pulev landed himself a six-month suspension from boxing and a $2500 fine after he was filmed forcibly kissing a female reporter on the lips after his win over Dinu during an interview. The California State Athletic Commission took the decision to suspend Pulev for six months and only reinstate his licence if he completed a sexual harassment awareness course.
His licence was reinstated after four months following the completion of the course. He has been warned that if he does anything of this nature again, then his licence will again be revoked.
Joshua v Pulev Preview: Can Pulev beat Joshua?
There is no question that Pulev is a good fighter, but I honestly do not think he is good enough to beat Joshua. His only real chance is if Joshua takes him lightly like he did against Andy Ruiz Jr in their first fight.
But seeing how Joshua performed in the rematch against Ruiz, I’m not sure Joshua will take an opponent lightly ever again. That defeat lit a fire under the Brit, and he knows if he wants to go down as one of the greatest heavyweight champions in history, then he needs to deal with Pulev quite convincingly.
Pulev has the engine to hang around for a long time, but I just don’t think he is good enough to do enough to defeat Joshua.