Knockout win over Pulev, Anthony Joshua retains titles, says sets to face Fury

AJ as called by many fans and admirers has successfully defended his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world titles following his ninth round knock out victory over Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night in London.

Anthony Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) recorded four knockdowns against a determined mandatory challenger in 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 inside London's Wembley Arena.

The fight saw the Nigeria-born British champion floored his Bulgarian challenger three times in a dramatic but yet entertaining contest with many believing this ruthless win should earn him an undisputed fight against Tyson Fury next year.

Saturday’s contest between Joshua and Pulev began predictablely on a cagey note as both men appeared very cautious and exchanged jabs intermittently.

In round two, Joshua began to take the fight to Pulev and fired off a combination of hooks and uppercuts.

Pulev remained defensive as he absorbed a number of body jabs and tried to close the distance.

In the subsequent rounds Joshua still had the upper hand though Pulev also provided some flashes of brilliance.

Three consecutive uppercuts from Joshua hurt Pulev in the seventh round but still the tough Bulgarian would not cede ground.

Joshua found another knockdown in round nine and then ended the fight with a brutal right which put Pulev down for the count.

Joshua in his post-fight interview said: “I stuck to what I know best, boxing, looking at where I’m gonna put my shots, put them together.

“When they’re successful, they’re successful, it’s less talk and more action.”

"It was a fight. I want less talk and more action in boxing. I hope everyone was satisfied tonight," Joshua said. "I stuck to what I know best -- boxing, looking to where I put my shots. When I was successful, I was successful. I really don't want to do an interview right now, I just want everyone to go home and enjoy their Christmas."

Asked whether he wants the challenge of facing Fury, he replied: “Of course I want a challenge.

Undefeated WBC champion Fury holds the only major belt outside of Joshua’s grip and a meeting between them would be a delight to watch.

"You ask the crowd what they want to see. I am up for anything," Joshua said. "That's [promoter] Eddie Hearn's job. I started this game in 2013, I have been chasing the belts and fulfilling the mandatories. Of course I want the belts. If that is Tyson Fury, let it be Tyson Fury. There's no big deal. It's on to my next fight, I don't care about anything else. I have to stay focused."

Both fighters each have one more mandatory opponent to face first as Joshua is due to fight former cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and Fury owes a fight to the winner of the Alexander Povetkin-Dillian Whyte rematch.

There is a possibility one or both fighters could vacate their title to avoid the mandatory opponent, although that would remove the spectacle of Joshua-Fury being an undisputed title fight for all four recognized belts.

"It's the only fight to be made in boxing. It's the biggest fight in boxing. 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."

Joshua’s knockout win was watched by a crowd of 1,000 people plus boxing great Floyd Mayweather.

Although it was clear Joshua, 31, hadn't forgotten about the upset stoppage he suffered to Ruiz before avenging it by decision in December 2019, the British star was able to balance safety with firepower by relying on his big jab and avoiding getting too reckless in going for the finish. A big part of that was how responsible the 39-year-old Pulev was throughout coupled with how much the native of Bulgaria was able to retain the threat of his right hand in order to hang around deep into the fight.

After a tentative start in which Joshua pawed with his jab and negotiated distance, the 6-foot-6 AJ finally made his power felt in Round 3 with a right cross that staggered Pulev. A flurry of combinations from Joshua followed until a right uppercut forced Pulev to turn his back and head for cover in the corner.

Pulev was lucky he wasn't counted out for doing so and was given a standing eight-count despite not being floored. Moments later, Joshua appeared close to finishing the job altogether when a second right uppercut deposited Pulev to the canvas late in the round.

Things finally began to fall apart for good in Round 9 for Pulev as a trio of uppercuts forced him to take a knee to avoid being stopped. After beating the count, Pulev rose and Joshua used his jab to set up a perfect right cross from distance which floored Pulev again. 

Even though he was able to make it to his feet, Pulev was on shaky ground and the fight was stopped at 2:58. 
The loss for Pulev snapped an eight-fight win streak since his 2014 defeat to then unified champion Wladimir Klitschko by knockout. 

Also on the same Saturday, Lawrence Okolie smashed Nikodem Jezewski for a second-round stoppage to claim the WBO international cruiserweight title as the Brit is getting closer to a bigger fight in the 200-pound division. Plus, Hughie Fury handled Mariusz Wach with easy for a unanimous decision. The 26-year old has won four of his last five with the lone loss coming to Alexander Povetkin.

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