The politics of heavyweight boxing has once again come to the fore. Make no mistake – the public wants to see Anthony Joshua fight Tyson Fury to determine the world’s undisputed champion.
It’s a contest that surely has to happen soon, especially with the Gypsy King confirming recently that his trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder has been canceled.
“Tell AJ to grow a pair and step up in December and fight.” 💥
“I’ll smash Anthony Joshua into next week.” 🔥
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) October 1, 2020
Indeed, it seems as though the only people who don’t want to see Joshua vs Fury are the promoters desperate to protect their ‘investment’ and save their client from a possible career-stalling defeat. As it stands, a summer mega fight in 2021 looks likely to be possible rather than a probable.
The problem with such hesitancy is that it allows the voices of mandatory challengers to be heard above the din, and the upshot is that often fights are made that hold no appeal to anyone but the underdog themselves.
Hence why Kubrat Pulev has managed to forge his way into the heavyweight title picture. Admittedly, he is the mandatory challenger for AJ’s IBF strap, but at a time when the number of big fight cards has been decimated, is now really the time for the Bulgarian to jump the queue ahead of Fury and co?
According to Pulev’s camp and as reported by a number of reputable media outlets, a contract has been signed by the 39-year-old to take on Joshua in London on December 12.
“There is no way back, no postponement, no rescheduling! Let the better one win!”
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) October 13, 2020
It will be third time lucky for the Bulgarian, who unfortunately had to pull out of their scheduled bout back in 2017 with injury. But will he finally take his chance? Joshua is a comfortable 1/9 favourite in the betting odds, and so clearly Pulev will have his work cut out at the O2 Arena.
It can be strange sometimes how each of boxing’s divisions operates and ranks fighters. Pulev is ranked as the mandatory challenger by the IBF and is highly respected by the WBO, but he isn’t even a top-10 concern according to the WBA and the WBC.
The reason for that, perhaps, is a clear lack of elite level opposition on Pulev’s CV. He built an impressive 20-0 record early on in his career, with scalps including Alexander Dimitrenko, Alexander Ustinov and Tony Thompson. But then he ran into Wladimir Klitschko, and that unbeaten streak came to a brutal end with a fifth round KO loss.
Respect should go to any fighter that dusts themselves down after a defeat and goes again, and Pulev has recorded eight straight wins since his tough outing against the Ukrainian. As far as his credibility goes, the issue is that Pulev has taken ‘easier’ fights in an attempt to claw his way up the rankings, with the likes of Maurice Harris, Bogdan Dinu, and Rydell Booker hardly household names.
It’s not as if Pulev has been cruelly avoided by the division’s major players either. He has only won roughly half of his fights by knockout. While he’s a big guy, he doesn’t have the devastating punch power that keeps champions awake at night.
So you can forgive the reticence of fight fans in getting really excited about this contest, and it will take a career-defining performance from Pulev for this to end in anything other than a routine Joshua victory.