As Anthony Joshua gets set to defend his belts against Kubrat Pulev, we look at everything you need to know before the bout begins on Sky Sports Box Office…
By Virgin TV Edit
In heavyweight title fights like this, more often than not, the only thing greater in size and scale than the two men in the ring is what each of them is laying on the line.
On Saturday, Anthony Joshua’s WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO titles will be his to defend, and Bulgarian challenger Kubrat Pulev’s to snatch, as the two finally re-enter the ring after an as-yet inactive (albeit turbulent) 2020.
A huge 2021 beckons for the winner. And while Joshua remains the favourite to add another win and knockout to his collection, recent form has rightly caused some to question whether the Brit is the all-conquering behemoth many once believed him to be.
As such, plenty of questions will be answered come the final bell on Saturday night…
Has Joshua really learnt his lesson?
The last fight fans saw of Joshua was his uncharacteristically fleet-flooted masterclass over an admittedly sluggish (and hugely out of shape) Andy Ruiz Jr last December. The performance revealed a new side to AJ’s game many never thought possible from a fighter best known for his sheer size and power.
While his victory was well-earned, the question remains as to whether he has truly learnt his lesson following that first shock loss to Ruiz. Impressive as his subsequent win was, Ruiz, by then, was a shadow of the fighter who had so brilliantly won the belts all those months before.
A dominant win over Pulev – in much the same fashion as his 2018 win over the equally unfancied Alexander Povetkin – will go some way to silencing the critics who have begun to scrutinise Joshua’s credentials, especially in comparison to fellow Brit and WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
While he may be the overwhelming favourite, a win against Pulev is far from certain…
Can Pulev cause an(other) upset against AJ?
Though his record might not boast the biggest of names (aside from his one defeat against heavyweight great – and former Joshua foe – Wladimir Klitschko), Pulev is no slouch in the heavyweight ranks.
His sole title shot came in the aforementioned 2014 defeat to Klitschko, though he has remained in and around the upper echelons of the division’s rankings ever since. A string of solid performances against Derek Chisora, Samuel Peter and Kevin Johnson have rightly earnt him a shot at AJ’s belts.
Plus, in Pulev, Joshua faces much the same prospect as he did against Ruiz back in July 2019. Namely an unfancied (though respectable) challenger, seen more as a stopgap ahead of bigger fights in future. As such, fans are right to speculate on the chances of AJ making the same mistake again.
What to expect?
If AJ brings his A game, a knockout. Pulev, much like Klitschko and Povetkin, is the kind of opponent who sticks to the edges of the ring, waiting for openings and counters. An easy target to hit but a hard one to pin down, in other words.
AJ dispatched the likes of Klitschko and Povetkin in devastating fashion, so could well do the same this weekend. After all, Pulev’s a stark contrast to the front-footed, inside-type fighters like Ruiz, who proved so problematic for Joshua to overcome.
But Ruiz’s aforementioned win revealed a chink in AJ’s armour that Pulev could well look to exploit. Whether he has the skill (or, at 39, the speed) to do so remains to be seen. If Pulev sucks Joshua into a brawl, the Bulgarian has a chance.
Ultimately, however, a massive 2021 beckons for whichever fighter leaves the ring with three of the four most coveted titles in the division.
Oh, and they can probably expect a cheeky FaceTime call from Tyson Fury, too.
See how the fighters line up
When is Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev on TV?
Joshua v Pulev takes place from 6pm on Saturday 12 December on Sky Sports Box Office. It is available to order now and costs £25.95 (HD) or £24.95 (SD).
How can I watch the action?
Go to Home > On Demand > Live Events. To view your booking, once purchased, go to On Demand > Live Events.
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Repeated at 9am and 4pm on Sunday 13 December.