By Keeran Rajan
22 days from today, the magnificent stage which is the Principality Stadium will play venue to the next title defence of Anthony Joshua, the unified WBA/IBF and IBO World Heavyweight Champion.
Joshua, who has been earmarked for superstardom and has hogged the limelight and media attention going into this match-up which has seen as reported by Matchroom boxing 70,000 tickets sell out in record-breaking fashion eclipsing the records set by the Muhammad Ali – Leon Spinks rematch which took place 39 years ago.
But his opponent has just about slipped through the cracks, so who exactly is the man he is facing?Kubrat Pulev is very much an unknown quantity to the average fan, so let us look at his credentials. Firstly he boasts a very solid amateur pedigree which did see him take honours such as a Bronze medal at the World Championships and Gold at the European Championships. Since he has turned pro he continued to show promise amassing titles such as the IBF International title, European Heavyweight title, WBA Intercontinental title as he gradually climbed the ranks and put together a 20-0 record.
He also has a very proficient set of technical skills which he proved he can be very astute with and these are skills he has honed since his amateur days. His one prior attempt at the world heavyweight championship came in 2014 against the former longtime heavyweight kingpin, Wladimir Klitschko who engaged in a battle for the ages against Joshua in his last matchup. He held his own for a few rounds boxing cautiously and looked to cleverly offset Wladimir with feints and even wobbled his man with a left hook. However, the one glaring chink in Pulev’s armour is, is he going to be able to take a solid, flush blow from Joshua? That was the question mark going in against ‘Dr. Steelhammer’ and he failed to silence those question marks as he was sent to the canvas multiple times from different power shots before being knocked cold with a left hook in the 5th.Since that defeat, we have seen Pulev steadily realign his career with five consecutive victories over game contenders such as Derick Chisora, Samuel Peter and Kevin Johnson fight his way back into title contention. Technically speaking, Pulev is very well drilled with a typical, stand-off, and patient style which derives from the Eastern European school of fighting. Given time and space, Pulev will be a dangerous and formidable opponent especially given his ability to jab effectively coupled with a reach of 80 inches and the fact he stands at 193cm does make him quite the handful as it is always hard to control range against someone of those dimensions. Nonetheless, Anthony Joshua will still enter the ring,
this month the heavy favourite to move to 20-0 with 20 knockouts.
In boxing, a phrase you hear thrown around quite a lot is ‘one punch is all it could take’ and that is never more accurate when approaching a heavyweight fight. Joshua will have to be wary and avoid any slip-ups here against a man in Pulev, intent on correcting where he went wrong in the past and exploiting his less experienced foe. On the other hand the youth, energy, power of the younger champion should be enough to see him prevail and see him move one step closer to the lucrative unification bout against Deontay Wilder where we will finally see the picture become clearer in the heavyweight division and where we will finally be able to see one man establish divisional supremacy at Heavyweight for the first time since the great Lennox Lewis retired in 2004.