Kubrat Pulev needn’t yet abandon preparation for one of the biggest opportunities of his career.
Despite a story quoting the heavyweight contender to the contrary, plans still remain in place for Bulgaria’s Pulev to challenge unified titlist Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21KOs). Their bout is currently due to headline June 20 live on Sky Sports Box Office in the United Kingdom from Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium in London, England, representatives from both sides confirmed to BoxingScene.com on Thursday.
“In response to today’s Reuters article quoting Kubrat that the Joshua fight has been postponed, I can confirm that we only told Kubrat that there is a chance that his fight will be postponed, but as of the moment, it is still scheduled for June 20,” John Wirt, president of Epic Sports—Pulev’s co-promoter along with Top Rank, Inc.—clarified to BoxingScene.com. “Since we never had a formal press conference to announce the fight and therefore tickets were not put on sale, there is no rush for us to make a decision now to postpone a fight that is still more than [three] months out.
"As more information becomes available and we begin to see how things are going to develop, we will be consulting with our partners at Matchroom and Top Rank about whether we need to push the June 20 date back to later this summer."
The fight was announced as part of a blockbuster heavyweight stretch revealed by Matchroom Boxing, Joshua’s career-long promoter.
The June 20 show is the last of three heavyweight-headlined cards over a seven-week period beginning with the currently scheduled May 2 interim title fight between England’s Dillian Whyte (26-1, 19KOs) and Russia’s Alexander Povetkin (35-2-1, 24KOs) live from Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. Wedged in between the two events is a May 23 show from London’s O2 Arena, where former World cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13KOs) will collide with England’s divisional gatekeeper Derek Chisora (32-9, 23KOs).
Usyk is one of two mandatory challengers in waiting for Joshua, with Pulev (28-1, 14KOs) up first as per the rotational order between sanctioning bodies. The fights were scheduled with the understanding Usyk—providing he gets past Chisora—will get the winner of Joshua-Pulev later this year.
Of course, any bout currently on the boxing schedule runs the risk of being postponed due the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. That said, it’s also why Matchroom Boxing opted to announce the heavyweight triple threat that far in advance, while having also postponed all of its shows scheduled to take place in March and April.
With that, plans reman full steam ahead for Joshua’s first fight in the U.K. since his 7th round stoppage of then-mandatory challenger Povetkin which took place in front of 80,000 strong at London’s Wembley Stadium. The hosting venue for the June 20 show seats 62,000 for its primary occupant, the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of the English Premier League—one of many sporting entities which has seen its schedule severely compromised by COVID-19.
“We are still shooting for June 20 and are regular contact with Tottenham,” Eddie Hearn, managing director of Matchroom Boxing confirmed to BoxingScene.com. “If there is an extension to the Premier League season then we may look to push back to July but right now June 20 is very much the focus.”
Joshua will look to make the first defense of his second tour as a unified heavyweight titlist. The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former top-rated heavyweight emerged as the sport’s biggest draw over the course of his three-year title reign, which came to a crashing halt following a 7th round knockout loss to Andy Ruiz last June in New York City.
The win was soundly avenged in their rematch, where Joshua scored a landslide unanimous decision last December in Saudi Arabia. The bout came on the condition that the winner would honor a mandatory challenger versus Pulev, who guns for title glory in his second try.
Pulev came up well short in his first attempt, suffering a 5th round stoppage to then-lineal champion (and unified titlist) Wladimir Klitschko in November 2014. Eight straight wins have since followed for the 38-year old contender, including a 12-round nod over Hughie Fury in their October 2018 title eliminator.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox