A year removed from his two-fight streak with Andy Ruiz Jr. which included his first professional career loss in June 2019, Anthony Joshua came out of a safer, more calculated version of himself on Saturday’s return. That doesn’t mean, however, that the unified heavyweight champion couldn’t deliver the boom.
Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) recorded four knockdowns against a determined mandatory challenger to Kubrat Pulev (28-2, 14 KOs) en route to an impressive ninth round TKO in front of 1,000 fans adhering to COVID-19 protocols in London. Wembley Arena.
While it was clear that Joshua, 31, had not forgotten the upset stoppage he suffered at Ruiz before avenging him by decision in December 2019, the British star was able to balance safety and firepower in leaning on his big blow and avoiding getting too reckless. going for the finish. Much of that was how responsible Pulev, 39, was throughout, coupled with how much the Bulgarian native was able to keep the threat from his right hand in order to stay deep in the fight.
“It was a fight. I want less talk and more action in boxing. Hope everyone was happy tonight, ”said Joshua. “I stuck with what I know best – boxing, I look for where I put my punches. When I succeeded, I succeeded. I really don’t want to do an interview right now, I just want everyone to come home and enjoy their Christmas. ”
After a provisional start in which Joshua skated with his jab and negotiated the distance, the 6-foot-6 AJ finally made his power felt in the third round with a right cross that shifted Pulev. A wave of Joshua combinations followed until a right uppercut forced Pulev to turn his back and take cover in the corner.
Pulev was lucky not to have been counted to do so and was given a standing count of eight although he was not shot. Moments later, Joshua looked set to finish the job when a second right uppercut dropped Pulev on the canvas at the end of the round.
Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest news in the combat sports world from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.
Unable to finish Pulev, Joshua returned to autopilot and smashed his opponent with the jab, including a greater focus on the body. Although he rarely took risks, Joshua never put himself in great danger except for a pair of nice right hands that Pulev hit in the eighth round which Joshua took well.
Things finally started to fall apart for good in the ninth inning for Pulev as a trio of upercuts forced him to take a knee to avoid being stopped. After beating the count, Pulev stood up and Joshua used his jab to set up a perfect straight cross from a distance which knocked Pulev down again.
Even though he managed to get up, Pulev was on shaky ground and the fight was stopped at 2:58.
Joshua was then asked if he would seek an undisputed championship fight in 2021 against WBC and linear titleholder Tyson Fury, and the unified titleholder appeared to match despite a somewhat cryptic response.
“You ask the crowd what they want to see. I am ready for anything, ”Joshua said. ” It is [promoter] The work of Eddie Hearn. I started this game in 2013, I chased the belts and filled the warrants. Of course, I want the belts. If it’s Tyson Fury, let it be Tyson Fury. There’s not too much. It’s my next fight, I don’t care about anything else. I have to stay focused. ”
The two fighters each have one more mandatory opponent to face first as Joshua has to fight former cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and Fury owes a fight to rematch winner Alexander Povetkin-Dillian Whyte.
There is a possibility that one or both fighters could void their title to avoid the mandatory opponent, although that would remove the show of Joshua-Fury being an undisputed title fight for the four recognized belts.
“It’s the only fight to fight in boxing. It’s the biggest boxing fight. It’s the biggest fight in British boxing history, ”Matchroom Boxing promoter Hearn said after the fight. “For me, it’s less talk and more action. We know what we want to do so let’s do it. ”
Bob Arum of Top Rank, co-promoter of Fury, told Sports Illustrated after the fight he is “absolutely convinced” that an agreement can be reached and stressed that the framework for an agreement is already in place.
Fury, who was reportedly on the verge of signing a comeback fight against a softer opponent, immediately tweeted after Joshua’s victory that he was ready for the next super fight and predicted he would win by knockout in three rounds. .
Pulev’s loss broke an eight-game winning streak since his loss in 2014 to then-unified champion Wladimir Klitschko by knockout.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the course on Saturday, to follow the results and highlights provided below.
Battle card, results
- Anthony Joshua (c) defeats. Kubrat Pulev via ninth round TKO to retain IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight championship
- Lawrence Okolie def. Nikodem Jezewski via TKO in the second round
- Hughie Fury won. Mariusz Wach via unanimous decision (100-90,100-90, 99-91)
- Martin Bakole beats. Sergey Kuzmin by unanimous decision (98-92, 97-93, 96-94)
- Kieron Conway defeats. Macaulay McGowan via unanimous decision (100-90, 100-89, 100-89)
- Florian Marku and Jamie Stewart fought for a draw
Joshua vs Pulev scoreboard, live coverage