Anthony Joshua Takes His Time to Finish in Nine Against Pulev

  • Anthony Joshua
  • Boxing
  • Brawl Boxing
  • Kubrat Pulev
By ptully23 December 13, 2020 2 Comment
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Joshua-Pulev: The Road to Glory

World Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua faced Kubrat Pulev, the Bulgarian Veteran at the SSE Arena at Wembley, London, England.

Joshua was a heavy favorite with the bookmakers to stop the wily 39- year- old from Sofia. However, Pulev’s only previous loss was back in 2014 when he challenged Wladimir Klitschko for the IBF and The Ring Magazine belts. Pulev was a mere 33 years old when he took on the 38-year-old Ukrainian, but Klitschko dispatched his opponent with a knockout in the fifth round.

So, could a relatively fresh 31-year-old Anthony Joshua out do his old adversary and stop Pulev in the early rounds? There was certainly pressure on those broad shoulders. Any repeat of last year’s devastating shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. could put the Londoner’s highly anticipated showdown with WBC World Champion, Tyson Fury, in jeopardy.

Rumor has it that both men could earn as much as $130m each for that unification bout, with the prospect of at least one rematch securing yet more riches. Both men have earned enough money to comfortably retire now. However, they now go in search of something more than providing financial security for current and future generations of their families.

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These men choose to fight on in search of securing a legacy among the pantheon of boxing legends that have been the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The last man to achieve this status was Lennox Lewis, some twenty years ago. This fight represented another hurdle for Joshua in his bid to unify the division.

The Stage is Set

With just 1,000 seats of the 12,500-capacity allowed to be occupied by fight fans, something like an atmosphere bubbled in the background. The two fighters continued the verbal sparring that went on at the weigh in during the introductions in the ring. Joshua looked very focused as Pulev tried to goad his opponent before the opening bell.

As the two men faced off to hear the referee, Deon Dwarte’s final instructions, I thought that AJ looked more than the official two inches taller than his 6ft 4-inch opponent. I also thought the relatively diminutive South African referee was going to have his work cut out trying to separate these two giants in the ring. Pulev had weighed in at 239.7 pounds, while Joshua scaled 240.8 pounds, 4 pounds heavier than his last fight in December 2019.

Measuring Up

Joshua met Pulev in the centre of the ring and immediately set about establishing his jab. Joshua made sure he took advantage of his 2.5-inch reach advantage by controlling the distance with fast jabs to the body and head.

The first round was a cagey affair with both men trying to measure up and use feints to keep their opponent guessing. Joshua came out on top though, largely due to Pulev’s widely held guard and Joshua’s superior hand speed.

The opening phases of the second round saw more posturing from Joshua as he attempted to set traps for Pulev, looking to counter his opponent off the back foot. Pulev is an experienced campaigner though and chose to stay fighting on the outside but failed to land any of his attempted long-range hooks.

Down But Not Out

The fight really caught fire in the third round. Pulev flicked out a lazy jab, which Joshua seen coming and slipped outside of, before launching his weight off his back leg to send a thunderous right cross crashing in to the jaw of the Bulgarian.

Pulev looked shaken up by that shot. He scrambled on the back foot in a desperate bid to buy some precious seconds to try to clear his head. Joshua pressed forward and let his hands go. Eventually he landed a right uppercut that caused Pulev to instinctively turn his back on his opponent. Pulev received an overhand right to the top of his head, as he retreated to the corner. This is usually interpreted to mean that a fighter no longer wants to continue. To his credit, Pulev beat the count of the referee and bravely boxed on.

Joshua went after the early stoppage and caught Pulev with a right- hand uppercut that sent Pulev stumbling before landing on his back. Fortune favors the bold, and luckily for Pulev only 17 seconds were left left in the round to weather the storm and regroup.

Clever or Cautious?

Perhaps with the memory of the disastrous first Ruiz Jr. fight fresh in his mind, Joshua decided not to throw caution to the wind at the start of the fourth round. He declined to rush his opponent and risk getting caught with a counter punch.

Instead Joshua resolved to going back to boxing behind the jab and trying to draw Pulev onto a backhand counter. Some critics have surmised that this was because AJ was ‘gassing’ after his onslaught in the previous round. I personally think this was more to do with some indelible psychological Scars that remain from that solitary loss, rather than any physical short- comings. The absence of a long and storied amateur background for Joshua means that he has had to learn on the job.

In these middle rounds of his 25th professional fight, he demonstrated an evolution in defensive capabilities. When Pulev closed the distance, Joshua tied him up and held. When Pulev tried to shift his feet quickly to let hooks go, Joshua pivoted away out of range. He blocked and parried most of Pulev’s body shots.

Only a short right hook in the fifth round found Joshua’s chin, but the delivery had neither the speed nor the leverage to trouble the champion.

Round 7 saw more success for Joshua. He landed three consecutive uppercuts on Pulev, who didn’t seem to heed the warning signs from earlier in the fight. Clearly this is something that Joshua’s trainer, Rob McCracken, had him working on in camp. However, showing great resolve, Pulev came back to land a duo of quick straight left- right combinations, that the champion absorbed but perhaps should have evaded.

Joshua Pulverizes Pulev

Incredibly, Pulev left himself open for the uppercut again in the ninth round and Joshua duly obliged with four hefty blows that went un- replied. Joshua had been landing this shot all night. By now, the viewer got the feeling that Pulev was running on borrowed time.

One more uppercut went crashing in and sent Pulev to the canvas for a third time. Again, the warrior in Pulev would not give up and he got up to beat the count. Perhaps Pulev’s corner should have thrown in the towel at this stage and saved their fighter’s pride.

Alas, he was left to be felled for the fourth and final time by a solid left-right combination from the champion in the ninth round.

What’s Next?

Critics will say that a more complete heavyweight champion would have stepped on the gas and had Pulev out of there by the fourth round. Supporters of AJ will say that he was wise to adopt a more cautious approach with so much at stake in 2021.

In hindsight, the extra rounds may even pay dividends after such a prolonged absence from the ring. Tyson Fury revelled in the fact that Joshua seemingly froze when asked if he wanted a fight with Fury next in the post- fight interview.

One thing that is beyond a shadow of a doubt is that fight fans all over the globe are only really interested in seeing these two titans clash with each other next. It is over to the promoters now to get the deal done, sooner rather than later.

The sport of boxing must learn to give the fans the matchups they want to see, while the fighters are still in their prime.


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Boxing writer for The Brawl Network based in Belfast, N. Ireland.



Joshua O’Neill

December 15, 2020

Well done great article ptully


Gerard McCauley

December 15, 2020

Very good work ptully, I enjoyed reading this article with my teenage kids who take a great interest in boxing, they also liked your article

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