It’s been a long time coming, in fact the bout has been three years in the making, but at last, current WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will face IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. The bout has now been confirmed for December 12th at London’s Wembley Arena. With the current lockdown measures in place limiting fans to just 1,000, the atmosphere is sure to be different, but that shouldn’t detract from what is at stake – with Joshua’s array of titles on the line.
In fact, the latest Joshua – Pulev odds are in the former’s favour, as he takes on the Bulgarian, who has previously had one attempt at a shot of a world title – but lost out to then-IBF World Champion, Wladimir Klitschko. That was in November 2014, and a lot has happened since then. While Pulev has been unable to challenge for another world title, he’s always been in with the chance, having been the IBF mandatory challenger for some time.
Meanwhile, Joshua has seen a meteoric rise through the heavyweight division, winning every title in sight, before relinquishing them all in defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019. It proved to be a massive shock which shook the boxing world, but in the rematch, staged in December of the same year, he regained his belts in dramatic fashion, with the result being decided unanimously by the judges, in favour of AJ.
While there may not be the usual fireworks and atmosphere associated with these kind of fight nights, it’s bound to be explosive inside the ropes – and Joshua will have a point to prove, having bounced back from that defeat. It’s third time lucky for the fans, with Eddie Hearn keen to confirm the bout, after injury and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic had caused it to be postponed twice already.
It was back in 2017 that Joshua and Pulev were expected to meet, with 80,000 fans packed into Cardiff’s Principality Stadium for the occasion. It wasn’t to be, and after rumours circulated suggesting that Pulev had a shoulder injury, were found to be true, the IBF number 3, Carlos Takam was drafted in with 12 days’ notice. The bout went ahead, sating IBF’s satisfaction for Joshua to face a mandatory challenger. Of course, Joshua went on to retain his titles, but not without controversy – with the referee prematurely putting an end to the bout in the 10th round, after Takam was knocked down.
On March 20th, it was confirmed that Joshua and Pulev would fight at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London on June 20th, but within only a couple of weeks of being announced, the rescheduled bout was postponed again, this time due to the coronavirus pandemic. But with boxing now back, and a number of mouth-watering matches in the pipeline, as well as witnessed over the last month or so, the bout is due to go ahead on the newly scheduled date of December 12th.
Neither boxer have had a professional fight for a year, with Joshua last facing Ruiz Jr in that aforementioned rematch, last December to regain his titles, and Pulev facing Rydell Booker in California, back in November 2019. It will be Joshua’s return to home turf for over two years, having previously fought in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia and New York, USA – while Pulev will be making his UK debut. Of course, these are all factors which play into how the bout will go, but one of the more crucial ones will be that lack of atmosphere, without a full crowd present to witness proceedings. The fight night experience is unique, and without a packed British crowd willing AJ on, the implications that has could well affect the result too – not that it’s affecting the current betting markets.
It’s set to be an exciting finale to what has been a very strange year – and a win for Joshua will surely see him finally face Tyson Fury!