Joshua Stops Pulev in 9
By Caryn A. Tate on December 12, 2020
Anthony Joshua defended his titles against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. (Sky Sports)
In London on Saturday, unified WBA/IBF/WBO world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) defended his titles against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs). 1000 fans were allowed to buy tickets and be in Wembley Arena.
The first couple of rounds were largely dominated by Joshua, who boxed and utilized his jab to control Pulev and keep him on the end of AJ’s long reach.
In the third, Joshua went on the offensive after landing a solid right hand upstairs. Pulev took a lot of clean shots before going down; he made the count but was hurt. Joshua continued to punish Pulev, and at one point Pulev completely turned his back and faced the corner. He made no indication he intended to turn back around, but in a bizarre move the referee allowed it to continue. The fight should have been stopped then and there. It was clear Pulev wanted out.
A second knockdown from Joshua came in the third, with Pulev making the count but standing on very shaky legs. When they would get in a clinch, Pulev consistently threw rabbit punches with no apparent warning by the referee.
When the bell rang, Pulev paused and then intentionally threw a little shot at Joshua. AJ returned the favor. The ref was standing right between them but didn’t prevent any of this from happening.
In the fourth it was more of the same. Pulev survived and threw his shots to the back of Joshua’s head whenever he found himself inside AJ’s reach. Joshua continued to control his man.
The next few rounds were similar, except the intentional fouls by Pulev increased: rabbit punches were the most frequent, but occasional holding and hitting too. Only once or twice did the ref say anything, but the official had no control of the fight. Joshua sometimes returned the fouls because the referee wasn’t doing anything.
In the ninth, Joshua landed a few uppercuts in a row on Pulev and the latter went down. He made the count, but again his legs weren’t good. Joshua jumped on him and landed a clean right hand, dropping Pulev heavily onto his back. The referee oddly counted, rather than just waving it off when it was clear Pulev wasn’t able to continue safely. But this time Pulev wasn’t able to make the count and the ref, finally, waved it off.
Pulev has a lot of tells—he’s surprisingly easy to read for a guy who fights at this level. Joshua was able to anticipate much of what Pulev was doing and throwing, and Pulev’s lack of adjustment and IQ in the ring were obvious in the way Joshua was able to control him throughout.
It was a very good performance by Joshua, who showed good defense, stamina, and fundamentals throughout. Many questioned his mental strength after his loss to Ruiz, but this was not the fight to test that. Tonight, he looked good in every respect.