Saturday Night Fever: Joshua vs. Pulev
By Robert Ecksel on December 12, 2020
“With all due respect to Anthony Joshua,” said the challenger, “I don't think he's invincible.”
On Saturday, December 12, in a title fight broadcast live from SSE Arena in Wembley, England, Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs), the IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion from Watford, Hertfordshire, will defend his titles against IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs), the perennial contender from Sofia, Bulgaria.
At Thursday’s final pre-fight presser, Joshua predicted a knockout, as did Pulev. The reigning and defending champion has every advantage. He holds all the cards and is the favorite going in. But both men have had long layoffs due to injury and COVID-19, which may affect their performances this weekend.
“The pressure that I went through last year was tough,” said AJ, “but it made me mentally stronger. I’ve had to toughen myself up again and get used to taking punches to the head and body and getting my hands strong again, and just getting myself prepared for a tough fight on December 12.
Pulev may be the IBF mandatory, but he’s not the fighter most want to watch Joshua fight.
“Pulev’s experienced,” explained Joshua. “He’s 39 now. What I’ve learnt from facing experienced fighters such as Alexander Povetkin and Wladimir Klitschko is that they can still be lively and do a lot of damage. At that age, the last thing you lose as a heavyweight is your power. He’s got that power.”
Pulev also has a good chin. His only loss was by knockout to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. But Pulev has won eight straight since then. His most celebrated victory during that time was a split decision over Derek Chisora in 2016.
Joshua started late and seems to have made up for lost time.
“I’ve been fighting at a top level ever since I walked into the gym,” he said. “I had a three-year amateur career, going from walking into the gym to competing at the European Championships, World Championships and the Olympics.”
Pulev said he’s “ready to fight.” He got started early and may have been ready all along.
“We waited a long time for this fight,” said Pulev. “In 2017 I had a problem and that’s why I said to my trainer we must go for the win, not to fight now but fight a couple of years later. I knew the fight would come one day.
“With all due respect to Anthony Joshua, I don't think he's that good, nor do I think he's invincible. I think I have everything. I’m here now, ready to fight and win. I have everything to be champion.”
Despite the distractions, Joshua is maintaining his focus.
“It’ll be good for the fans, but my focus will be just on Pulev. I’ve known Kubrat Pulev for many years. When I'm looking at Pulev I'm thinking 'that boy can't beat me.'
“No disrespect to the fans coming in but I’ve got a serious job I need to complete.”