Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Sport Managing Director:
“This is the curtain closer for a difficult 2020, but it doesn’t get any bigger. The unified World Heavyweight Championship between Anthony Joshua and his Mandatory Challenger Kubrat Pulev.”
(Photo credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)
Bob Arum, Top Rank Chairman:
“Kubrat Pulev is a really rugged fighter. Pulev went into severe training in Bulgaria; he’s in the best condition of his career. I look for him to not only beat AJ but to knock him out.
“Tyson Fury agrees with me that there’s a great chance that Pulev is going to upset the apple cart and beat Anthony Joshua. That’s why they do the fights, to see what happens in the ring. Without question, whatever way the fight goes, it’s going to be very entertaining.”
John Wirt, President of Epic Sports and Entertainment:
“We’re finally here, two days away, it’s exciting, and we’re delighted to be here. For Kubrat, this fight is about father and country. Kubrat descends from an ancient people, the Thracians. Those people prided themselves on their warriors’ prowess, and that’s what Kubrat is – a real warrior.
“Kubrat is here to do what his father dreamt for him. His father wanted two sons that would become boxers and eventually become World Champions.
“He’s in incredible condition, he’s lean, and he’s a man on a mission. I believe on Saturday the referee will be raising his hand, I believe that Kubrat will knock Anthony Joshua out.”
“The pressure that I went through last year was tough, but it made me mentally stronger. I grew thicker skin. I’ve always been tough and wanted to fight the best; that’s never been an issue.
“What have I got to lose? I’ve got everything to gain. I want to be successful in boxing, and the only way to be successful is to take on big challenges. This is just another one I’m looking forward to competing with.
“I want to promote boxing; I don’t yearn for that credit. I’m very motivated; I’m hungry; that’s why I put myself forward for any opportunity. I’ve got a family to feed, friends I want to do business with, the worlds my oyster. At the end of the day, I can’t expect anyone to love me if I don’t love myself, so I respect myself, and that’s why I put in work every single day.
“I’ve been fighting at a top-level ever since I walked into the gym. I had a three-year amateur career, going from walking into the gym to competing at the European Championships, World Championships, and the Olympics.
“I’ve been punched by the strongest people many times, but I’m still here today. That never changed me; just because I took a loss from Ruiz, I don’t think that’s enough to change someone. Every fighter trains hard, but it’s a character that separates us, and I’ve got a lot of character.
“I’m going to go into the fight, I’m definitely going to get hit, and he’s going to get hit; it’s going to be last man standing.
“It’ll be good for the fans, but my focus will be just on Pulev. No disrespect to the fans coming in, but I’ve got a serious job I need to complete. God willing, I’m confident I’ll enjoy the victory after.
“I’ve known Kubrat Pulev for many years. I was in the training camp when his brother was sparring Warren Baister. I was in Klitschko’s camp when he prepared for Pulev. I understand some of the tactics that need to go into beating him.
“I’m prepared for the fight to go to the final bell, and I feel like I’m a 15 round fighter, not a 12-round fighter. If it needs to go 12 rounds, I’ll be more than capable of carrying my stamina, my boxing IQ, concentration, and strength until the final bell.”
Robert McCracken MBE, trainer of Anthony Joshua:
“He’s had a great camp, he really enjoys boxing – we’ve been doing more boxing sessions, two a day in some cases, so he’s been really enjoying that.
“He’s sparring great, his athleticism is brilliant, and his physical strength is phenomenal. That’s what people don’t realize when they get in the ring with him, how he can move, and how strong he is.
“He’s worked long and hard on the discipline, doesn’t underestimate anybody, and takes everyone seriously. He’s not a unified champion for no reason, he’s a fantastic fighter, and he’ll only get better. This is a good fight for him and one we look forward to.
“Anthony fights the very best fighters out there; that’s why he’s achieved what he has achieved and why he’s got the name he’s got – he doesn’t duck anybody. Kubrat Pulev is one of the best out there, he’s an excellent fighter, but I believe Anthony’s a better fighter. That’s why he’s the champ, and we believe he’ll prove that Saturday night.
“I think he’s gone through a learning experience; he’s wasn’t 100% going into the first Ruiz fight. We took the rematch, and he won it comfortably; we always thought he would. Ruiz is a perfect fighter, a solid, underestimated boxer.
“Anthony’s Olympic Champion, Unified Champion, he’s going from strength to strength. He’s enjoyed the camp, he’s been disciplined, on point, and Saturday night can’t come soon enough.”
“I’m ready to fight, and we waited a long time for this fight. In 2017 I had a problem, and that’s why I said to my trainer, we must go for the win, not to fight now but fight a couple of years later. I knew the fight would come one day.
“I’m here now, ready to fight and win – I believe Saturday night I will take the win.
“In 2017, I was younger, but I also had a problem with the sparring, and I couldn’t fight. Now I’m healthy, and I’m ready and happy with the fight – with the pandemic around the world, it’s not easy. I’m ready to get the win.
“I think I have everything, and I’m ready. Respect to Anthony, Olympic and World Champion, and a good fighter. I’m ready, and I have everything to be Champion.”
“Of course, he’s ready, and this is what he’s trained for his entire life. This is a big opportunity. It’s a trying time in the world right now, and he [Kubrat] has a chance to take people’s minds off it and take the victory.
“He can entertain the world so they can see his journey, what he’s done on the road to becoming Heavyweight Champion of the World. It’s good for Kubrat to help the world on its way to normality. We’re ready.
“Kubrat is mentally strong, and I think we’ll cause an upset on Saturday night.
“Of course, you need somebody like Anthony Joshua to make the victory that much sweeter. If I thought Anthony wasn’t the one to bring that diversity, then it wouldn’t be a good fight. I think he’s very well prepared, he’s in his home country, he’s got a lot to prove, and he’s going to come out guns blazing.”
“For me, the most important thing is fighting. The Titles will come in due course, I thought it was my time this Saturday, but I’ll have to keep the training going and beat a good undefeated fighter.
“I feel like if anything this is positive; I’d won the British Commonwealth European Title, and the World Title shot has just come. However, this feels like a final eliminator, and it’s added a bit of spice to Saturday for me. He’s got the world at his feet if he manages to win, so I’ll have to make sure I go and do my thing.
“This is a great opportunity to put on a mature performance. Shane said he’s not going to happy with me if I don’t do certain things in this fight, so I’m going to make sure they get done.
“It’s one thing doing it in the gym; it’s about executing it on fight day. I do certain things in the gym I don’t do in the ring; it’s about translating that. I’m happy to win, but there’s more that I’m capable of doing that I need to bring into the fights if I’m going to be World Champion.”
“This is a big chance for me, and I’ll take it. I have big respect for Laurence because he’s an Olympian medallist, but this is a big chance for me, and I’ll do everything I can to win.
“I’ve had only five days’ notice, but I’ll give it everything I’ve got.”
“I believe I’m ready for all these fights, and people are going to see a major difference. I’m very confident, I work hard, and people are going to see this on Saturday.
“Mariusz Wach is a tough fighter, he’s been whacked a lot, and he’s still standing. It’s going to be a good fight, but Mariusz hasn’t fought a fighter like me, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I can box, I can knock him out – see what I bring to the table. I believe in myself; the main this is to get the win. I’m looking forward to putting a show on, and Mariusz hasn’t faced anyone like me before.
“I believe I belong in this division, especially at world level, and I’m going to take over – mark my words.”
“43 other fighters were saying similar things like my opponent [Hughie]. I hope that this energy he has now will be there on Saturday’s fight. I’m certain I’m in some of the best forms of my career, and I want to win Saturday’s bout.”
“It will be a tough fight for both of us, my opponent is much younger and wants to fight his way up to the title, but I want to stop. I also want to win this fight.”
“I’m looking forward to this fight; I always call people out and want to fight the best. Saturday night, I have one of the best opponents, and I’m looking forward to it.
“In boxing, if you don’t take the risk, you’re not a professional. I’ve been training with AJ and some top guys out in the UK. This is a man’s fight, so on Saturday, we’ll see what he brings to the table.
“I am a big puncher, and I can get punched; that’s the problem for him [Sergey]. He’s in big trouble because I’ll get him; we’ll see who’s the best on Saturday night. We’ve both had 1 loss each, this means a lot, and both of our careers are on the line.”
“For me, every fight is crucial no matter who the opponent. As always, I come to the UK, so this is just a new goal for me facing Martin Bakole.
“In the Heavyweight division, anything can happen; one punch can change everything. It depends how me or Martin will follow our plans for the fight. It can also go the distance; nobody knows.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. I’ve been training really hard; this is my moment. I don’t care who is in front of me; I don’t see opponents. I only see only someone who is trying to stop me from reaching my dreams and making my family’s lives better.
“I’m not new in this game; I have been fighting since I was 12 years old. I have 170 kickboxing fights; I was a four-time World Champion. This is not new for me.
“My Albanian fans make the difference. They fill stadiums wherever I’ve been, and I appreciate that. Now I will win with my performance and character with the UK fans.
“I want whoever thinks that they are the best fight in my division. Bring the best guys with the best records, and you’ll see what I’ll do to them. When they are in the ring with me, they change; when they are in front of me, everything changes. When they see my speed and power, they will change.”
“I’m ready since September since my last outing with Hennessey Jr at Light-Middleweight. I did what I had to do to get the fight. Sometimes a boxer might not fight because of someone pulling out, so I thought I could grab this opportunity to get back out there and for people to see who I am.
“I feel like there’s more to come for me. I took that fight on a two-week notice; I wasn’t really training for the fight. Since after that fight, I’ve been in the gym every day, non-stop, lowering my weight.
“I feel ready and comfortable. I know he’s dangerous; I’ve been saying for months I don’t want to fight journeyman anymore. I need a test and a challenge, and I know he’s a big puncher – that’s something I want to risk.”
“I’ve got a lot of people following me back home, so I’ve got to put on a good show. I want to be there fighting decent fighters; I want to show that I’m tough and ready.”
“I’m massively focused, I always look at what’s in front of me, and I’m not looking past it at all. I’m here to do a job.
“I was gutted when Souleymane Cissokho pulled out, but fair play to Macaulay for stepping in at such short notice. I’ve stepped in at short notice, and I respect it. I’m here to do a job, and I’ll fight fire with fire if I have to.
“I took those short notice fights because I stay in shape. I’m huge for the weight, I’m big, and I’m coming in with the presence. It’s going to overwhelm him.
“A statement probably is needed, but this is the perfect place to do it. There’s going to be loads of people watching this. Hopefully, they’re going to remember my name, and a win will really cement it.
“I think he [Macaulay] is quite delusional, knocking me about, I don’t know where that’s come from. I don’t think anyone’s come close to that yet.
“After my last fight, I took one week off; I always stay ready. I was ready to take any sort of opportunity that came up; I wanted another fight before Christmas. That was the mentality I had coming into this.”
“I took a bit of beating in my last fight, but life’s about being resilient, and I’m bouncing back. I know a lot of people are thinking I can’t win on a week’s notice. I don’t care what anyone thinks; I’m coming for the win.
“I’m coming for a fight, that’s all I’m coming for, it’s going to be a fight—an absolute war.
“I’m here to entertain, have a good read and riot and go home to see my family. I stepped in on a week’s notice. I got a pasting in my last fight; I need to make a statement; I need to go out there and do what I do best. Not think about it; go and do what I do best and have a good fight.
“I wouldn’t have taken the fight if I didn’t think I could make a statement and win the fight.”
“You can always learn something from a defeat. You learn more than you do from a win because sometimes things that go wrong; if you win, you might brush them under the carpet.
“That defeat will keep me in good stead down the line. Ashley Lane is no mug; he’s only lost once in his last eight fights. Within those last eight fights, he was a Commonwealth Champion at my weight.
“I’m ready to take on all the step-ups, I take on all the fights – I’m not one to shy away from any fights. That’s the way I mean to go on.
“I definitely want to make a statement, but the pressure doesn’t bother me. Pressure makes diamonds. I’m one of those people that has been to the highest mountains in the amateurs. It didn’t bother me then; it doesn’t bother me now.”
“Ashfaq is going to be feeling a bit down after that loss to Mark Leech, but I’m expecting him to bring a good performance, and we’ll bring a good performance. It’ll be a great fight, and god willing, I’ll have my hand raised.
“I retired in September, COVID and the lockdown came, and I got a new job, boxing was behind me I was moving on. As I said that, Jamie and Chris rang me and said, we’ve got you a fight on the AJ show. It’s an opportunity you can’t turn down.
“I see this fight as a bonus for me. I walked away from boxing three months ago, and I wasn’t going to come back. Now I’m here at one of the biggest shows of the year; this is a bonus, so no matter what happens on the night, I’ve already won.
“One loss doesn’t dictate whether you go on to win titles or not, so whatever happens Saturday, Ashfaq has got a future, and I’ve got a few more years in boxing. God willing, I’ll win, and I can’t retire now.”