Anthony Joshua successfully defends his unified status with another knockout!
Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is always a major topic in boxing. With him holding three of the four major belts, the last around the waist of rival Tyson Fury and the two agreeing in principal to fight each other in 2021, he could be the next Undisputed Heavyweight Champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999!
However, he needed to dispatch IBF mandatory Kubrat Pulev. The Bulgarian has been waiting for his second title shot since losing his first to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. Given the major upset Joshua was involved in back on June 1, 2019 against late-replacement Andy Ruiz, Pulev was confident he could pull off the same upset.
AN OLD DOG, NO NEW TRICKS!
The thing about Pulev is he only fights one way. He employs the typical Eastern European, upright style and rarely fights on the inside. He 100% hangs his hat on fighting behind a jab from the outside with little movement or setting up combinations. Additionally, he rarely attacks the body. In essence, he is the personification of the proverbial “one-two punch fighter”.
This is the very reason he was stopped in the fifth round against Klitschko in his first title bid.
Joshua boasts about a two inch height and reach advantage. Also he can box from the outside better than the 39 year-old challenger. Therefore, Pulev needed to be more aggressive, take chances, get inside of the champion and attack the body to keep him from moving late in the fight. However, it may be hard to teach an old dog new tricks!
BIG RIGHT HAND!
The fight started out slow with Joshua looking to cruise his way to another points victory similar to the Andy Ruiz rematch in 2019. Pulev of course stayed on the outside at a disadvantage trying to jab with the champion.
Then in round three, Joshua started to inch a little closer, looking to land something big. As Pulev lunged in with another jab, he left his chin completely exposed. The champion slipped it and immediately came over the top with a huge right hand that staggered the challenger. Acting on instinct, Pulev attempts to retreat, turning his back to Joshua in the process. The champion went on the attack, pushing the 39 year-old up against the ropes in a defensive posture. An uppercut followed by a hook made Pulev turn his back a second time and retreat into a corner where he finally went down.
The IBF #1 contender beat the count, but his legs were still unstable. As the referee motioned for the fight to continue, the champion immediately attacked. Pulev found himself on the defensive again, being knocked all around the ring. A well timed uppercut as the challenger attempted to hold knocked him across the ring on his back! At this point, it looked to be like the fight could be over.
But Pulev has waited six long years for this second opportunity. He did not allow himself to be stopped so quickly as he beat the count again and finished the round.
HOW LONG CAN HE LAST?
Surprisingly, Pulev fought into the championship rounds. He continued to eat some big shots throughout but he started to recover much faster than before. Joshua even started to respect the thought that he may not win by knockout and started to box from the outside more in the middle rounds.
Even more surprisingly, the challenger started to land his jab and straight-right hand combination. He even arguably won the eighth round as he pushed the champion back behind his jab. Would Pulev actually present a problem in the championship rounds?
In round nine, the champion seemed tired of letting this fight go on. Similar to the third round, Joshua would move closer to his opponent. With the uppercut on his mind, he got on the inside and landed four consecutive uppercuts. Pulev seemed to take them well after getting caught in a tie-up. However when a fifth one came, Pulev staggered across the ring again and took a few more shots against the ropes before going down a third time.
He recovered as he did after the last two knockdowns but this time he was visibly shaken. He was even confused as to which corner he should go to. Once the referee allowed the fight to continue, deja vu came for Pulev. Similar to how he was knocked out by the left-hook from Klitschko after referee Tony Weeks broke up a clinch, Joshua would land a straight-right hand on the jaw that put the Bulgarian down for good!
Just like that, the champion would defend his unified status in a dominant performance!
In a previous interview, Joshua made it clear he would fight anyone. The biggest bout of course is the Undisputed clash against rival Tyson Fury. He claimed in that interview if the WBO mandated he fight #1 contender Oleksandr Usyk next, he would take that fight first. Although in the post-fight interview he claimed that if Fury is next then so be it!
We will have to wait and see what happens next for the unified champion as his options are endless. Stay tuned to 3kingsboxing.com for further developments!
By: EJ Williams