Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev: Five key battles where fight will be won including power, speed and experience
ANTHONY JOSHUA is the red hot favourite to end a miserable 2020 on a warm note.
The WBA, IBF and WBO king should have defended his titles against Kubrat Pulev on a roasting hot June evening, at a packed new Tottenham stadium.
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Instead the 31-year-old is returning to the ring, after 53 weeks off and two years away from the UK, in front of just 1,000 fans at Wembley Arena.
In the opposite corner is a 39-year-old veteran, whose name apparently cannot be typed without the adjective ‘grizzled’ attached.
The Bulgarian was mandated to fight AJ by the IBF in Cardiff in 2017, only for a shoulder injury to rule him out and let Carlos Takam come in for a sub stoppage.
But we will find out if he has been savvy or lazy by cherry picking a couple of easy keep-warm opponents to beat in 2019, while waiting for his chance to come around again.
Pulev has promised to expose the wounds AJ had ripped open against Andy Ruiz Jr back in June 2019.
Joshua has vowed to return to his devastating best, blowing away the old guard and the memory of that cautious Ruiz Jr rematch win last year.
SunSport breaks down where this Wembley war might be won.
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The deluded ghouls who celebrated Mike Tyson’s return to ‘boxing’ did get one thing right; power is the last thing a fighter loses.
Twenty years in boxing – as an amateur and pro – will have made The Cobra a little sluggish, but Pulev will remain a slight threat, with 14 of his 28 wins via KO.
Joshua, though, is one of the most ruthless fight finishers on the planet and if he gets the slightest sense Pulev is hurt, he will unload a violent flurry.
Only a prime Wladimir Klitschko has beaten Pulev, by KO in 2014. It’s unlikely the decorated amateur’s reflexes and resilience have improved with age, so he will be relying on cunning and technique to keep him out of danger.
AJ might rush out the blocks, knowing his old pal Wlad floored Pulev twice in the first round, once in the third and finished him in the fifth.
Joshua knows the 12-round points win over an even-more-bloated-than-usual Ruiz did not provide him with a thorough chin-check.
If the London 2012 icon plants his feet and unleashes a trademark three-punch combination, he will give Pulev the perfect chance to tickle his whiskers and then we will know about his mettle for sure.
Joshua only started boxing in 2007 but was a world championships silver medalist in the 2010 games and Olympic legend two years later.
Then, inside just 16 pro fights, he was heavyweight world champion. And he has not been in an ‘easy’ fight since 2016 when he bashed up former school teacher Eric Molina.
Pulev did not even turn professional until 28, having been well rewarded for winning medals for Bulgaria in the amateur code.
He raced to 20 wins against limited opposition, including Brits Matt Skelton and Michael Sprott, to land his shot at Klitschko.
Eight rebuild wins later and he is back knocking on the world title door again but only a generous 2016 split decision win over Derek Chisora really tested him, so he could be suffering serious ring rust.
Joshua has been a bundle of fun in the build-up, using one section of his media conference call to laugh about Tyson Fury’s failed December 5 fight and even offering to manage his bitter rival.
Long lockdown walks have been taken with his son JJ as the reformed party boy gets in touch with nature.
And the English ace has even claimed to have allowed sparring partners to tee off on him, to build his mental and physical resilience.
Pulev has not been in the trenches for a long time, 2019 opponents Bogdan Dinu and Rydell Booker would have done nothing to sharpen his tools.
But Pulev’s father recently died and he has vowed to honour him with Bulgaria’s first heavyweight world title – so his motivation has an element of X-factor.
Eddie Hearn admits he has hated the effect behind-closed-doors shows have had on some of his favourite fighters.
A handful of heavy favourites like Dillian Whyte, Shannon Courtenay and Qais Ashfaq have lost in silent venues around the country, while fan favourites like Josh Buatsi and Lewis Ritson have underperformed.
Pulev has certainly never had 90,000 fans willing him on so he should feel encouraged by AJ having to handle the unfamiliar surroundings.
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