In a heavyweight title fight that pretty much flew largely under the radar outside of the winner’s home country of Bulgaria, IBF NO.1 mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev won a fairly dull, lopsided 12 round unanimous decision over US veteran Kevin Johnson last night. The WBA inter-continental strap was on the line and Pulev, who is in line to face the winner of tonight’s huge Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko fight, retained this with a near shut-out.
The scores were 120-108 twice and 119-109. 35 year old Pulev, beaten only by then world heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, who halted him in five rounds back in November of 2014, is now 25-1(13). 37 year old Johnson, who announced his retirement from the sport after his 2nd round KO loss to Anthony Joshua back in May of last year, is now 30-8-1(14).
Pulev was never hurt or in any trouble against Johnson, but some critics may wonder why “The Cobra” was unable to score a KO. Johnson is a good survivor, yes, but AJ took him out quickly and, with Pulev aiming for a fight with Joshua (if AJ beats Klitschko tonight of course) his performance against Johnson will inevitably be compared to Joshua’s showing against the former world title challenger.
Pulev remains a good, rugged and strong heavyweight, but does he have anything with which to trouble Joshua? We’ve already seen Klitschko take care of Pulev (although straight after the stoppage loss he suffered, Pulev called for a second shot at Klitschko) so nobody would be too excited about a rematch. Still, Pulev has kept himself reasonably busy, now having won five on the bounce since suffering his sole pro defeat, and he is the IBF mandatory.
There is a chance that tonight’s winner between Klitschko and Joshua may opt to vacate the IBF belt, however, and chase a bigger fight, maybe against the likes of Deontay Wilder or Joseph Parker, so in this case Pulev would likely face someone for the vacant belt.
Despite this possibility, though, Pulev will be a most interested observer of tonight’s superfight at Wembley.