After his last hurrah on that historic night under the Wembley arch in front of 90,000 onlookers, Anthony Joshua’s next fight was always going to be an inevitable comedown, especially after a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko fell through when the former champ gracefully retired.
The IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev is the name that will provide AJ with the fourth defence of his IBF strap on October 28 at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
The 36-year-old is the IBF’s #1 challenger and also ranked highly with all other governing bodies – WBA #7; WBC #3; WBO #3; IBO #2.
The Bulgarian has only lost once in 26 professional bouts. The aforementioned future hall of famer Klitschko was the only one to place a red mark against his otherwise perfect record.
The familiar lead left hook, synonymous with the Ukrainian, was the successful shot to end “The Cobra’s” perfect record in the fifth-round of their November 2014 meeting, which became “Dr Steelhammer’s” 53rd and final stoppage win of his career.
His 21st contest didn’t end well for him over in the Fatherland but he bounced back to reel off five straight wins, including a split decision over Dereck Chisora in May 2015 to land the European heavyweight title – his second stint as the champion.
Following up from that feat, Pulev forced “The Nigerian Nightmare” Samuel Peters to retire in the fourth-round of their fight in his home town of Sofia to capture the WBA Inter-Continental belt in December last year.
He defended the same title successfully four months later against the “Kingpin” Kevin Johnson via a very wide points decision. AJ managed to inflict the only stoppage of Johnson’s career in May 2015 when he demolished the American in two rounds.
Pulev was initially due to fight the Briton following his epic victory over Klitschko but promoter Eddie Hearn secured an exemption allowing a rematch to take place. Since falling through, the pathway is now clear for Pulev to have his second tilt at the title.
Born on May 4th 1981 in Sofia, Kubrat Venkov Pulev is nine-years Joshua’s senior.
The Bulgarian, like Joshua, has a decorated amateur history. He represented his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he was beaten in his first fight, but won the European amateur championships in the same year in Liverpool. He also boasts a bronze medal in the 2005 World Championships; another bronze in the 2006 Europeans; plus a silver (2005) and gold (2004) in the EU Championships; as well as winning the Strandzha Cup in 2002 – the oldest international boxing tournament in Europe.
Trained by former East German amateur champion Otto Ramin, he has guided his heavyweight charge to three major titles so far in his eight-year professional career – IBF International heavyweight title; European heavyweight title (twice); WBA Inter-Continental heavyweight title.
Joshua will have to watch out as his forthcoming foe has previously beaten three other British boxers – Matt Skelton (2010); Michael Sprott (2012); Dereck Chisora (2016).
He also has a history of upsetting unbeaten prospects in their own back yard when he defeated Alexander Dimitrenko via 11th-round knockout in Germany in May 2012.
His opponents’ combined records equals to a whopping 674-190-13, compared to Joshua’s 449-134-10.
Also referred to as “The Bulgarian Butcher”, he has turned down lucrative financial offers to represent Germany, having fought 21 of his 26 pro fights there, viewing it as a matter of principle not to change his national allegiance.
Pulev has done little to suggest that he is ready to rule the world and is unlikely to trouble Joshua. He was dropped twice in the opening round of his clash with Klitschko and it’s likely to play out in the same way against Joshua.
He is well schooled in the sport and will not be a walkover, he likes to sit behind a pawing jab that waves awkwardly and distractingly in his opponents’ face to set up opportunities to land his right hand. He has a ramrod jab but he carries his hands low and stands close enough to get hit often.
He may have a little more experience and respect since losing to Klitschko but Joshua is still very likely to end the fight early and extend his record to 20-0.
That will then set up a lucrative unification bout against either Kiwi WBO champion Joseph Parker or rival Hughie Fury, who will both meet in Manchester on September 23.
WBC title-holder Deontay Wilder also waits in the wings but it is has been reported that negotiations are in the works for “The Bronze Bomber” to meet undefeated Cuban knockout artist Luis Ortiz in Brooklyn on November 4.
The 27-year-old former Olympic gold medallist, who has won all 19 of his fights inside the distance, is already in training camp, preparing for Pulev.
Eddie Hearn knows the fight will be a tough sell after the champ unified the IBF and WBA Super titles in his heroic triumph over Klitschko in a night forever inscribed in the British boxing history books.
The Matchroom Boxing boss hopes that fighting under the closed roof of the Principality Stadium, where Joe Calzaghe beat Mikkel Kessler in front of over 50,000 spectators back in 2007, will give the fight the interest it needs to make headlines and, ultimately, sell PPV.
Wlad, man who stated in retirement that he was passing the torch to Joshua, has already set the benchmark with the fifth-round demolition he exacted almost three years ago.
Fans will be fully expecting to see the flag-bearer for British boxing to beat the Bulgarian within the first half of the championship fight.
Tale of the Tape
|KUBRAT PULEV||ANTHONY JOSHUA|
|Age: 36||Age: 27|
|Nationality: Bulgarian||Nationality: British|
|Nickname: The Cobra||Nickname: AJ|
|Height: 6ft 4in||Height: 6ft 6in|
|Reach: 80in||Reach: 82in|
|Fights: 26||Fights: 19|
|Wins: 25||Wins: 19|
|Knockouts: 13||Knockouts: 19|
|Losses: 1||Losses: 0|