Tony Bellew is anxious about the threat that the big heavyweight Kubrat Pulev poses for Anthony Joshua this Saturday night. He feels someone that AJ cannot afford to overlook.
This is the equivalent of Pulev’s Super Bowl on Saturday, and he’s going to be giving everything he’s got to send AJ down to defeat for the second time in his career.
Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) was a blue-chip amateur early in his career in Bulgaria, and he fought beat almost everyone before turning pro in 2009.
Although Kubrat lost to former IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko by a fifth-round knockout in 2014, he learned from the defeat and has improved.
Pulev, 6’4 1/2″, is vowing not to make the same mistakes that he made against Wladimir when he gets in there with IBF/WBA/WBO champion Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) this Saturday night at the Wembley Arena in London, England.
Joshua-Pulev will be shown on DAZN and Sky Sports Box Office.
Bellew: Pulev is dangerous
“Believe you me, Kubrat Pulev is a big, strong boy,” said Tony Bellew. “I’ve watched him as an amateur when he represented Bulgaria on multiple occasions.
“He’s [Pulev] very dangerous, very powerful, and big, tall and unorthodox. It’s a completely different set of skills than he [Joshua] faced in his last fight against Andy Ruiz.
“Andy Ruiz is a short, stocky counter-puncher and heavy-handed on the inside. This guy [Kubrat Pulev] is big, tall, long, and very powerful.
“His backhand is very dangerous of Kubrat Pulev. Somebody that doesn’t like to fight at somebody else’s pace, and likes to set the pace and fight behind a long strong jab. Kubrat Pulev will not sky away from Anthony Joshua,” said Bellew.
Pulev isn’t a huge puncher, but he has respectable power when he loads up on his right-hand power shots.
Joshua has a weak chin, and you can argue that Pulev has more than enough power to knock him out the way Andy Ruiz Jr did in 2019.
Joshua not viewing Kubrat as an easy mark
“Eddie Hearn has done a good job of talking up a fight,” said Joshua to Sky when told that Eddie has repeatedly said this week that he’s going to “steamroll” Pulev.
“Maybe I’ll stay hungry and stay humble. I’m just going to try and keep my feet on the ground, but trust me, I’ve got an instinct in me that you’re born with as a fighter.
“I’m going to go in there and do a number on him. That’s what I’m training for. But other than that, I wish him well in his preparations because the better he trains, the better I train, the better the fight.
“That’s what people are viewing. They want to see a good dust-up between two heavyweights,” said Joshua.
If Joshua has a great chin like some of the other heavyweights in the division, this fight wouldn’t be a big deal for him. He could take whatever Pulev dished out in the rounds and then blast him to smithereens by the sixth or seventh.
But the fact is, Joshua is chinny, and his stamina is on the level of a bodybuilder, who has no business inside of a boxing ring.
We’ve seen Joshua gas out against Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Andy Ruiz Jr, to name a few.
Joshua’s cardio problem has proven to be fixed and beyond improvement, and that’s unfortunate because he could run into trouble tonight if Pulev sets a fast pace that he can’t keep up with.
AJ learned his lesson from Ruiz fight
“I get your point about New York, and that’ll always haunt him about how everybody was going on about Deontay Wilder when he was facing Andy Ruiz [the first time],” said Bellew about Joshua.
“100% there’s a lesson learned, about the way he bounced back in the rematch with Andy Ruiz was nothing short of phenomenal.
“He completely changed his game and showed how much of a good boxer he can be when he puts his mind to it.
“He can’t afford those mistakes and slipups again, so all of his focus will be on Kubrat Pulev. You know, I don’t think we’d ever see a late change of opponents again in Anthony Joshua’s career.
“I think that’ll be a lesson learned. Don’t worry about Tyson Fury. Tyson Fury is doing his thing, and you’re doing your thing.
“Eventually, it’ll happen. Let’s focus on Kubrat Pulev, who is a brilliant established amateur. He beat up all the names as an amateur and been to all the major championships as an amateur.
He’s been in there with all the big boys as a professional. This is it for Kubrat Pulev,” Bellew said.
Bellew is deluded if he thinks Joshua has learned his lesson from the Ruiz fight.
Joshua won the rematch with Ruiz because the California native porked up to gawdawful weight and then didn’t have time to melt off all the tonnage off before the rematch.
Joshua won the rematch with Ruiz not because he learned his lesson. He won because Ruiz slacked off, got fat, and didn’t train.
This is Pulev’s dream fight
“That’s what Anthony Joshua has to get in his head,” Bellew continued. “Every time he faces an opponent, this is their dream fight, they’re fighting for all the belts, all the gold.
“It’s just another defense for him Anthony Joshua. He’s got to get the mindset off and keep the mindset off challenger and not champion.
“It’s very, very hard. It’s a lot harder to remain champion than it is to become a champion, believe you me. You’ve got to keep that mentality, and I believe he’s got it.
“He’s got a brilliant team around him, and he’s somebody, as I said before, who is still learning on the job. He’s not a complete fighter yet, and I can’t wait to see a complete version of him.
“He’s got all the attributes and all the tools at his disposal to be one of the greatest heavyweights this country has ever seen. Social media plays such a pivotal role in everybody’s life these days, but for a sport’s man, it’s not hard to switch off.
“Just put the phone down. Payless attention to your phone. Social media, everyone has got to remember, isn’t real. It’s just not real.
“The less you pay attention to them as a sportsman, the more you can focus on your craft. That’s what I think he [Joshua] done going into that Ruiz rematch.
“He switched off everything and he went in and put on a performance of his life. People always say that rematches go the same way as the first fight usually.
“It’s very rare that you see someone go into a rematch and completely dominate. My prediction was that he [Joshua] would go in and make a fool of Andy Ruiz, and make it really easy. And he did.
“He went in and used his attributes to his advantage and got the job done, and didn’t even break a sweat,” said Tony.
This is definitely Pulev’s dream fight more than any other during his career because the money he’s making against AJ on Saturday is going to be huge.
If Pulev beats Joshua, he’ll get an even bigger payday in the rematch, which will set him up for life as a wealthy man. Interestingly, Joshua’s promote Eddie Hearn put together a rematch clause just in case Joshua loses.
Normally, you don’t see rematch clauses when a champion is defending against their mandatory challenger, but Hearn could get Pulev to agree to it. Why wouldn’t he?
Joshua is the top of the tree in terms of money in the heavyweight division, and it makes all the sense for Pulev to want to fight him a second or even a third time.
Joshua must counter Pulev
“If he can go in there in this fight against Kubrat Pulev, he’ll have all the tactics right,” said Bellew of Joshua. “Just do what you do in the gym in the ring on fight night, then everything should be fine.
“I think he beats Pulev by drawing the lead and countering. I think that’s the key to victory in this fight.
“Pulev is big, he’s heavy, but he’s also slower than Anthony Joshua and he’s more clumsy. Anthony Joshua has to try and draw that lead from him and then counter.
“Anthony Joshua is the fastest combination puncher in the heavyweight division. He puts them together in twos and threes so fast and so powerful that it’s unreal.
“He’s got to use that to his advantage in this fight. So when Pulev overreaches, be quick to counter with short, sharp right hand and followed by left hooks and combinations, and then I think he gets rid of Pulev inside seven rounds,” said Bellew.
If Joshua can handle Pulev’s power, he’ll be able to counter him, but it’ll still be risky. Pulev has a powerful right hand that he answers back with when he’s countered, and I’m not certain that Joshua will be able to take it without dropping for the ten count.
Adam Smith worried for Joshua
“Dangerous assignment [for Joshua] for so many reasons,” said Adam Smith for Joshua.
“The looking beyond for Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was obviously the talk when he [Joshua] met Andy Ruiz in New York.
“He was meant to fight Jarrell Miller. He that around, and he’s had a year away. It’s a big, big night for AJ,” said Smith.
“I don’t think the banana skin issue will be an issue,” said Matthew Macklin of Joshua. “He’s learned from his mistakes with Ruiz.
“I’d be very, very surprised if he would take his eyes off the ball again. He knows Kubrat Pulev is his mandatory challenger, and I think.
“He’s [Pulev] only lost one fight to Wladimir Klitschko and boxed many times internationally in Bulgaria.
“So Anthony will be very aware, well aware of how good Pulev is and how dangerous he is. He can bang as well.
And so I think he’ll be very focused for this fight, and I think we’ll see a very good Anthony Joshua,” said Macklin.
Adam Smith is another one that views Joshua’s defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr as a case of him looking past him. That’s not why Joshua lost the fight, though.
Joshua lost that fight because his punch resistance is poor, and his cardio is among the worst in the heavyweight division as far as top tier fighters go.
Having a weak chin and poor cardio is a witch’s brew, making Joshua very vulnerable against almost any heavyweight with a moderate amount of power.
What’s saved Joshua from losing many fights is his power and size. He tends to get to his opponents before they get to him, and we may see that on Saturday.
Joshua not overlooking Pulev, says Macklin
“We’ve seen Pulev in the ring, haven’t we, with Dereck Chisora and Hughie Fury,” said Smith.
“They [Joshua and Pulev] were meant to meet three years ago when he ended up meeting Carlos Takam after Pulev pulled out [with an injury].
“He’s [Pulev waited around as the [IBF] mandatory, and, of course, he’s with Top Rank. Bob Arum has said, ‘Nevermind Tyson Fury fight, Pulev is going to become world champion,” said Smith.
“Listen, this is the heavyweight division, these are big men and they can bang,” said Macklin. “It only takes one punch, so Anthony Joshua has to be te beat, Joshua.
“He has to be at the top of his game, and he’s his [IBF] mandatory challenger. This isn’t his voluntary, and this isn’t a hand-picked opponent.
“Pulev is there, and he’s earned his right for this shot at the world title. He’s a danger-man, but I think Anthony Joshua has learned his lesson.
“He did take his eye off the ball in the first Andy Ruiz fight. He was looking past him.
“There was all this talk about Deontay Wilder. Nobody was focused on Andy Ruiz, and I think he learned his lesson. I don’t think he’ll make that mistake,” said Macklin of Joshua.
Obviously, Joshua isn’t overlooking Pulev one bit because there’s too much to lose if he gets beaten by the Bulgarian.
Also, Joshua knows he’s not infallible, as we’ve seen in his many fight where he’s been hurt after getting careless and sloppy.