If there is a single heavyweight that seems to be gaining momentum with the hardcore fans then that man must surely be the 9-0 (5) Bulgarian Kubrat “The Cobra” Pulev, a man who turned over from the amateur ranks in late 2009 and has been fighting the sort of opponents much experienced fighters should have been facing. He made his debut against Florian Benke (2-3) though has since faced Gbenga Oloukun (17-2), Zack Page (19-25-2), Matt Skelton (22-4), Danny Batchelder (25-7-1) and most recently Dominick Guinn (33-6-1). Not bad for a 9 fight novice really is it? For his 10th fight he’s staying on track and faces former Olympic Bronze medal winner and former European Heavyweight Champion Paolo Vidoz.
Although Vidoz, now aged 40 is on the slide and his record of 26-9 looks better than his recent form (0-3 and only 1 win in his last 6 and only 3 wins in 9) he has enough about him to give a fighter like Pulev some questions to answer. He’s a tough and skilled, if slow heavyweight, only stopped 3 times in his career (by Nikolai Valuev, Vladamir Virchis and Matt Skelton) he has managed to go the distance with guys like Sinan Samil Sam, recent world challenger Albert Sosnowski and unbeaten behemoth Alexander Ustinov. So perhaps more than anything this fight lets us see where Pulev stands in regards of Ustinov (who won a sloppy and unimpressive contest).
Vidoz generally has toughness as his main attribute now that he’s become “another overweight” heavyweight, though has got good skills that have started to fade and decent power. Though you probably have to go back 4 or 5 years to see a decent name on his record that he’s actually beaten. His best wins coming against the likes of Timo Hoffmann, Michael Sprott and Cengiz Koc (all in 2005/2006).
What this fight is most likely about it is three fold. Firstly the team behind Pulev want their charge to get some rounds under his belt, he currently has just 42 professional rounds in his 9 fights, Vidoz will likely see the end of the fight. If he can get the 8 round schedule from Vidoz he’ll test his stamina, if he manages to stop Vidoz before the end then the win is even more impressive. Secondly it allows Pulev to stay active and pad his record with another win against a fighter with more experience and a “name”. Vidoz, although a much faded force, is being passed around young fighters like the town bike, and being used and abused in the ring, living on his name. Thirdly and perhaps more importantly, it allows people to compare Pulev directly with Ustinov. Ustinov, now 22-0 (17) isn’t impressive, though is a beast of a man, standing around 6’7” and regularly weighing over 300lbs. He’s slow, crude and his a lot less powerful than his record indicates though holds a #5 rankings with the WBA. An impressive win here for Pulev over shadows the best win of the “world ranked” Ustinov and gets the Bulgarian closer to the title shot.
Looking at the fight it’s hard to imagine anything but an impressive technical fight from Pulev who will dominate behind his jab which will be significantly quicker and more accurate than his Italian foes. After a few rounds of jabbing his opponent efficiently expect to see Pulev opening up a bit more and try to work Vidoz’s ample body. Whether or not he can force the large man to double over and leave himself open is the big question. If he lands and can’t dint the man known as “ Titanium Jaw” (not Titanium gut) then he’ll just continue using his skill to take the shut out and get the rounds, if he can visibly hurt Vidoz expect the stoppage in the latter rounds. Although Vidoz will swing with bad intentions, a fighter with the skills of Pulev will take them on the gloves if at all as they have become slower and wider as Vidoz has aged, leaving plenty of chances for Pulev to counter at will making it seem even more one sided.
Hopefully Pulev will be looking onwards and upwards after this and perhaps face someone with something left to give the sport. Somebody like the WBA #6 Hasim Rahman could well be the ideal move, though a move onto 10 or 12 rounders is a must for Pulev who certainly seems like one of the best “novice” heavyweights out there.