Tuesday 21 November 2017

Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev is a bad and dangerous fight - and Joshua could pay for it with his world titles

Pulev has stopped, bludgeoned or knocked out 13 of the 25 men he has beaten on his route from Eastern European obscurity to the world stage

Anthony Joshua celebrates with his management team after victory over Wladimir Klitschko in the IBF, WBA and IBO Heavyweight World Title bout at Wembley Stadium on April 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Anthony Joshua celebrates with his management team after victory over Wladimir Klitschko in the IBF, WBA and IBO Heavyweight World Title bout at Wembley Stadium on April 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Steve Bunce

In a world of great fights, classics, epics, slugfests and bloodbaths there are also bad fights, fights that are truly dangerous and Anthony Joshua against Kubrat Pulev is a bad fight.

In April Joshua silenced the few remaining foolish doubters when he survived a knockdown, mid-fight exhaustion and then rallied with 90,000 cheering his every plodding step to send Wladimir Klitschko down and out and into retirement.

There was a long summer of slow recovery for Joshua, who is 27 now and not the baby in boxing terms that some people would have us believe, and when he returned to the gym he was given a roasting, read the riot act by Robert McCracken, his coach.

McCracken had watched in horror that night at Wembley when Joshua won the fight on heart and heart alone. “Rob was not happy,” smiled Joshua.

There was a wonderful plan to fight Klitschko one more time and a venue in Las Vegas was selected for November but then the towering Ukrainian sensibly decided that enough was enough and retired.

It is a pity because having been in Las Vegas for eight days of Conor McGregor’s failed takeover of boxing I can report without any exaggeration that the Las Vegas fight folk want to see big Josh.

“I watched the kid on tape and he can really fight,” Gene Kilroy told me on Sunday afternoon after the fight in a restaurant called Palms.

“This city needs a heavyweight champion, a nice kid and I like the look of Joshua.” Kilroy was Muhammad Ali’s business manager, close friend and facilitator for nearly 20 years and has been an executive host in Las Vegas since the early Eighties.

Kilroy helped Elvis Presley make the robe of diamonds and other gems for Ali that weighed over 30 pounds, he was first in the ring in Zaire and he still has (I think) the convertible Mercedes Tom Jones gave him. “I helped Tom with a tiny problem in the city, he said thanks,” Kilroy said.

The Klitschko rematch would have been perfect for Joshua but the Pulev fight is a real problem. Pulev’s only loss in 26 fights was against Klitschko in 2014 and it was also Klitschko’s finest performance, his most savage in a career defined by sensible boxing.

Pulev has stopped, bludgeoned or knocked out 13 of the 25 men he has beaten and his route from Eastern European obscurity to the world stage was far more difficult than the one Joshua was given.

He is not old in heavyweight terms, not faded, not scared and not too small; Pulev would have smashed the hapless trio of Americans that Joshua beat last year to win and retain a slice of the heavyweight championship.

He is also from Bulgaria and that, in heavyweight boxing terms, is simply not sexy enough, which is one of the main reasons the fight will be in Cardiff on October 28 and not in Las Vegas on November 11. 

“I know Joshua will fight and not hold and not run,” said Pulev. “I truly believed that Joshua and his people would not accept me as a fight – it shows to me that Joshua is a true champion and will fight anybody.”

The fight will be on Sky pay-per-view, one of as many as ten fights that will be offered to customers on a pay-per-view basis in Britain across either the Sky, BoxNation, YouTube or ITV platforms during the next four months.

Joshua will need to make sure that he treats Pulev with respect as both a puncher and a boxer and that is often far more difficult than boxers want us to believe.

Pulev recently went twelve rounds, which I consider a priceless part of his continued recovery from the Klitschko loss, with an American journeyman called Kevin Johnson, who was stopped in two rounds by Joshua.

It was the same Johnson on paper but a very different man on the night and complacency is the crucial piece of alchemy in just about every upset in heavyweight history. Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and George Foreman were all knocked out by men that held no fear for them.

Joshua against Pulev is a bad fight if Joshua’s head is not right. Last year a lot of dangerous opponents were rejected because Joshua was having some terrible sessions in the gym, his thinking was off, his timing slow, he was low and in the end a roly-poly knock-over job was selected.

Pulev will be hoping that Joshua is in the same difficult place when they meet under the canopy of steel that shuts high above the ring at the Principality Stadium and everybody else will be praying for the opposite.

Independent News Service

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