Kubrat Pulev maps Redemption Road
By Robert Ecksel on April 8, 2020
Pulev was denounced. He was the contender nobody wanted. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)
When Kubrat Pulev last made news, it wasn’t because he had signed to fight WBA/WBO/IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20 for a reported £4 million. It was because a year earlier he “forcibly” kissed a female reporter, Jenny “SuShe” Ravalo, on the lips without her consent at the end of a post-fight interview at The Hangar in Costa Mesa, California. It was bad behavior. It was also bad luck, because the videotape was running. And Pulev’s timing, such as it was, couldn’t have been worse. It was the height of the #MeToo movement and nobody was taking prisoners. He might have been jacked up from having knocked out Bogdan Dinu minutes earlier. But that’s no excuse. Some said cultural differences were to blame. Bulgaria and America are so different. It’s the Island of Dr. Moreau versus Shangri-La. For the immigrant used to old-world customs and behaviors, signals can be confusing.
Others saw other motives.
Stealing a kiss used to be poetic, like a lyric from the Great American Songbook come to life. But nowadays—forget about it. “It made me feel uncomfortable and frustrated that Kubrat Pulev would treat me in such an unprofessional manner,” Ravalo said, having just spoken with her lawyer Gloria Allred. “I did not encourage or consent to Mr. Pulev grabbing my face, kissing me, or grabbing my backside.”
Pulev said it was a misunderstanding. “Jenny is a good friend of mine, and after the interview I was so excited that I gave her a kiss.”
That’s it. He confessed. Jurisprudence be damned, it’s an open and shut case. Throw the book at him. Lock him up and throw away the key. It was a cause célèbre for 15 seconds. It also became a punch line overnight. The customary two opposing sides tugged at the same piece of taffy with all their strength and might. Meanwhile, the press had a field day. They raked the Bulgarian heavyweight over the coals. Pulev-gate, or whatever it was called during the minute it was called anything, became fodder for boxing’s tabloids. He was condemned. He was denounced. He was the contender nobody wanted. The California State Athletic Commission pulled Pulev’s license to fight, fined him $2500, and mandated that he complete a sexual harassment course.
At first he denied everything. “I am not to blame and have already given tens of thousands of interviews in my career,” he told the German newspaper Bild. “Everyone knows me as a friendly and polite person. The woman came up to me when we weighed in and said, ‘After the fight we'll party.”
Maybe the invitation to party warranted a kiss. I’m not sure about the buttock squeeze.
Kubrat Pulev is a fine fighter. He only has one loss. He’s as tough as nails, but defensive mastery isn’t his strong suit, which made his posture all the more surprising.
“I did not want to say anything bad about her,” Pulev told bTV Bulgaria. “I do not hate her. I still have good feelings for her even though they attack me and say lies.
“What they are doing is not moral, because there are really a lot of women who are real victims of sexual abuse. But this is not the case here. This is ugly and immoral.”
Pulev apologized. He sounded sincere.
“Yes, I am sorry for what happened, if I could go back, of course I would not do it.
“I am temperamental, I did it from happiness and euphoria. I can tell my fans that if I had to do it again, I would not.
“I am sorry for this, but the thing is I did it with no intention of abuse.”
With time on his hands, Pulev thinks about the fight. He also thinks about his reputation.
“I donate 50 per cent [of my purse to fight Joshua] to the tireless heroes in the fight against coronavirus,” he told Bild. “To nurses, hospitals and for the purchase of state-of-the-art medical equipment in the fight against the devilish virus.”
If it bleeds it leads, but good intentions generate good press.