Anthony Joshua will put his WBA Super, IBF, IBO and WBO belts on the line in his first bout for almost a year when he faces off against Kubrat Pulev at the 02 Arena in December. The 31-year-old last competed in the ring in December 2019 when he reclaimed all four of his title belts from Andy Ruiz Jr. The Mexican-American had stunned Joshua in their first meeting at Madison Square Garden, knocking out the Brit in the seventh round.
It was the first defeat of Joshua’s professional career, sending him into a soul-searching zone ahead of the rematch. Joshua could have been accused of overconfidence ahead of his fight against Ruiz Jr, given his imperious run of 22 victories on the bounce.
After a strong start in the bout, he was caught cold by the response of Ruiz Jr. He may have expected his opponent to fold after his early onslaught. The Mexican-American sent him to the mat several times before finally earning the knockout blow in the seventh round.
A humbled Joshua operated at the peak of his powers at the rematch in Saudi Arabia. He controlled the fight from start-to-finish and eased over the line by a comfortable margin on a unanimous points decision. Now back in possession of his heavyweight belts, Joshua cannot afford to look past the challenge of Pulev, who has an impressive record since turning pro in 2009.
The Brit cannot be distracted by the prospect of a future fight against his compatriot Tyson Fury, who will no doubt be watching with great interest. Joshua is the overwhelming favorite with odds of 1/12 at Space Casino and he should be able to meet those expectations if he is focused on the task at hand. However, the Bulgarian can pack a fair punch and will not be deterred by the prospect of facing the 31-year-old, whose aura of invincibility was shattered by Ruiz Jr.
Pulev had one title chance in the past when he earned a bout against Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. He entered the contest with an unbeaten record, but the Ukrainian was dominant and knocked out Pulev in the fifth round to defend his IBF and The Ring heavyweight titles.
Since then Pulev has been flawless in the ring, securing eight wins on the bounce. He produced a solid performance to overcome Dereck Chisora, beating the Brit on a split points’ decision. Pulev deserved the win, albeit not in the eyes of one of the judges. Since then he has added the scalps of Kevin Johnson and Bogdan Dinu, defeating the latter in Costa Mesa with a knockout in the seventh round.
The Bulgarian’s last outing would have given Joshua a huge amount of confidence. Pulev struggled to overcome 38-year-old Rydell Booker in the ring, as the American took the bout the distance. Pulev got the victory in the end, but he did nothing to suggest that he could produce a stunning upset against Joshua. The Brit is already extremely bullish over his chances to secure a comfortable triumph, claiming that he will “steamroll” his opponent.
Perhaps the only danger is overconfidence once again. Joshua cannot afford another costly mistake on the big stage against a lesser opponent. Once is forgivable, twice is certainly not for a boxer of his caliber. Joshua must prove a point with a professional outing.