Once again BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, delivers genuine world class action live to its subscribers from Schwerin, Germany this weekend with the heavyweight collision between unbeaten former European champion Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria and veteran Washington DC dangerman Tony Thompson.
The 12 round showdown is effectively a final eliminator for the IBF title currently in the custody of Wladimir Klitschko.
Mandatory challenger Pulev, 32, a former medallist at both the European and World amateur championships and now victorious in 17 straight as a pro, enters as a 4-1 on betting favourite.
However, he will be acutely aware of the carnage that the 41 year old Yankee southpaw can wreak. The fourth ranked 'Tiger' is fresh off a brace of conclusive stoppage wins against reigning British and Commonwealth king David Price – both times whilst operating out of the away corner.
It's a contest laced with intrigue so who better to analyse it for us than Liverpool coach Franny Smith, mentor to Price and a man able to offer the inside track on both principals.
(Catch the whole bill, which also features local star Juergen Braehmer in a European light-heavyweight title defence against Italy's Stefano 'The Hammer' Abatangelo, live and exclusive in the UK from 7p.m Saturday night, Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546)
"I always get excited over big heavyweight fights. Pulev is a real quality operator who I've long admired and Tony Thompson is riding high at the minute following his two stoppage wins over David so I'm really looking forward to this.
"I've followed Pulev closely since he was an amateur and I've watched a lot of his pro fights, dating back to when he knocked out (ex European champion and WBA title challenger)Matt Skelton with a jab to the body in just his fifth start. That showed that the Sauerlands were in a rush with him but there's not been many willing to fight him.
"David first sparred Pulev when both were amateurs and Pulev gave him a terrible time. David possibly wasn't ready and Pulev was really strong, even then. But before 'Pricey' faced Sam Sexton for the British title, he went back and sparred Kubrat in Berlin for 12 days when Pulev was preparing for his European title fight with (Alex) Dimitrenko. Second time, it was a different kettle of fish.
"They sparred every other day and this time they both had their successes. Pulev has a great engine and, like David, he likes to fight at a high intensity so it got very competitive. It was top quality stuff and all the top German coaches were impressed with David. It showed how much he'd improved. I was mindful that they might meet for real one day. Back then, we were confident.
"Pulev is a very stern, menacing character. He doesn't have a lot to say but always looks like he wants to rip your head off! Though he doesn't look ripped, he's really fit. At the Sauerland gym, the fighters all train twice a day and everything is very regimented and precise.
"Pulev's main weapon is his brilliant jab. He also throws a very good right cross, straight down the pipe. While David managed to outjab Kubrat because he had a longer reach, Tony doesn't really have a good jab. He's a right handed southpaw who looks to land looping counter right hooks over the jab. He doesn't jab with you.
"For this fight, Tony Thompson brings great experience of fighting at the very top level. From the outside, he doesn't look spectacular in any department, - no great hand speed or exceptionally concussive power – but he's got great timing and judgement of distance. That's what makes him so dangerous.
"He's also very cool under pressure; a natural fighting man. He can go forward or go back; change and adapt. He showed against (Luan) Krasniqi and against David second time that he's capable of coming back from an early belting and winning the fight. He'll be entering this on the crest of a wave following his wins over David.
"But he twice fell short against Wladimir Klitschko so I'm not sure that, deep in his heart, he feels he'll ever be able to win a world title, certainly whilst Wlad in dominant. I think he's fighting for the opportunity to earn money, whereas Pulev genuinely believes that one day he will be world champion. That could be the main difference here.
"Tony has very good movement and, if he can take away Pulev's jab, it could get very interesting. Good though Pulev's jab is, it's never easy to land against a tricky southpaw. As Klitschko said: 'Tony Thompson has long arms on a small head!' It's very difficult to land clean against him.
"Tony might choose to take Pulev on but I doubt whether he possesses the strength or energy to succeed. For me, his best bet would be to work to his attributes, capitalise on his good movement and him being southpaw. He's also a clever fighter who doesn't give much away. Klitschko struggled to catch him clean both times they met.
"Tony will probably spend most of the fight with his back against the ropes. He'll need to try and entice Pulev in, get him to over commit, then counter off the ropes with cuffing right hooks behind the ear. Those shots have a very disorientating effect as we saw against David but Pulev has a great chin.
"I'm expecting quite a tactical battle rather than a war. I see this fight following a similar course to Thompson's second fight with Klitschko. Pulev has deceptively quick feet with which to cut off the ring. He won't ease off. He'll sustain pressure, flapping with the jab and scoring with his back hand, denying Tony space, strangling him out.
"Eventually, probably somewhere between rounds six and eight, I expect Tony to start to unravel. It should be competitive for a few early rounds but ultimately Pulev will be too tough, too quick. He'll have too much energy and ambition."
Tags: Kubrat Pulev , Tony Thompson , Pulev-Thompson , Pulev vs Thompson