Heavyweight Division's New Hope: Is Kubrat Pulev Next?

by Cliff Rold

Given their dominance, the Klitschko brothers leave many observers in a state of duality.  They assume victories for the twin heads of the division while constantly projecting onto the future.  As the Klitschko’s age, an end feels inevitable.  Conversations about tomorrow are sure to increase.

It is particularly true now.

The Heavyweight division is recharging.  Tyson Fury, David Price, Deontay Wilder, and when he returns from injury Robert Helenius, are all newer faces reaching various points of contention.  Some may factor into the Klitschko legacy.  Others will stand ready to fill the void.

On the undercard of Alexander Povetkin-Hasim Rahman this weekend, U.S. fans will get a good look at a fighter who may do both.  Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev (16-0, 8 KO) is 31 years old.  He stands just a shade under 6’5.  He’s in shape at around 250 lbs.

He might be the future.

Amateur pedigree?  Pulev, while never the best in world in the headgear set, had a deep pedigree and learned his craft.  He competed at the 2008 Olympics and competed at his final World Championship tournament in 2009. 

Effective progression?  Pulev has developed on a firm professional path.  He’s faced a fighter with a losing record only once, that in his professional debut.  In his last three fights, he’s faced increasingly tough opposition in journeyman Travis Walker and Michael Sprott before taming fringe contender Alexander Dimitrenko. 

Power?  In that category, Pulev has been spotty. His temperament reflects a long unpaid tenure focused more on contact to win than contact to concuss.  If here is reason to wonder about his real long-range chances, it could come in the form of waiting so long to turn pro.  The best prospects rarely wait until their late 20s to get paid for being punched.  He’s more technician than terror but he can crack enough to finish.

Now he takes another in what can be called logical steps.  Opponent Alexander Ustinov (27-0, 21 KO) is limited but to date has passed his tests.  Most expect a failing grade versus Pulev.  With the win, Pulev has the chance to expand on his current position in the various sanctioning body ratings.

That position is good.

Pulev is rated in the top available slot for the IBF (3rd, with the top two vacant while eliminators are determined).  He is also rated number six by the WBA and number 12 by the WBC.  Two of those belts, IBF and WBA, belong to Wladimir Klitschko. 

With Vitali, the WBC titlist, likely to retire soon, Pulev may be able to jockey for that title when it goes vacant.  His angles indicate a clearer path, for now, to a shot at Wladimir’s belts and the lineal crown.

That means it’s time to start paying attention to Pulev.  That means it’s time, it’s fair, to start wondering if he might be next.

Boxing is not static.  Borrowing, as this scribe often does, from the great George Carlin, if it’s undisputed, why do they keep fighting?  For all the hoopla about unification fights, debates about who ‘real’ champions are, the wheels never quit turning. 

There isn’t a fighter in the division who would be favored over either Klitschko right now.  There hasn’t been a fighter who would have been favored over either since Lennox Lewis retired. 

That doesn’t mean no one ever will.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for someone who might.  If there are no contenders, then what is the point of a champion?  It’s what makes Pulev-Ustinov a fight worth looking forward to.

The winner emerges a strong contender.  Contention is the birth of discussion, the source of anticipation.  If Pulev impressively topples Ustinov, having already been mentioned as a possible future foe by Wladimir, anticipation can build. 

So too can the future of the class.  Just rubbing shoulders, and coming close, against Lewis gave Vitali an aura he’s carried for the rest of his career. Someone who can compete with the Klitschko’s can do the same for themselves.

Derek Chisora got a rub just by giving Vitali a fight earlier this year and made Vitali-David Haye hot again.  Whether it ever happens or not, it’s bigger now than it would have been had Haye simply rested on the blasé defeat he suffered versus Wladimir in 2011. 

Pulev versus Wladimir can be a point of intrigue, win or lose when the Bulgarian gets there.

First he has to make us wonder.  Ustinov is a big opportunity to do so.

The Weekly Ledger

But wait, there’s more…

Burns Scorches Mitchell:
And Ready to Burn up Lightweight?:
Ratings Update:
Ward Ascends P4P:
Updated P4P Top Ten:
Picks of the Week:

Cliff’s Notes… A quick mea culpa is in order.  The ‘Picks of the Week’ looked forward to a fight between Chris John and Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo but it appears that fight is not happening this weekend.  That scheduling snafu was missed here.  Apologies…Rest in peace to former Heavyweight beltholder Corrie Sanders.  Best remembered for his upset knockout of Wladimir Klitschko and losing wars with Hasim Rahman and Vitali Klitschko, Sanders had a big punch.  It turns out he had a bigger heart outside the ring.  He was killed protecting his daughter from gunmen and one hopes they are brought to justice rapidly…Manny Pacquiao’s lawsuit against Floyd Mayweather is over.  Whatever…Odlanier Solis is fighting Tomasz Adamek next.  It’s easy to look forward to Adamek fights.  It’s hard to care if the slovenly Solis ever fights again…Wouldn’t it be great if Hasim Rahman upset Alexander Povetkin?  It’s highly unlikely but seeing a fighter forge a career with almost no visible desire to be the best in his class is unseemly.  If Povetkin is never going to seriously go after a Klitschko, what’s the point?  That said, he’s wearing Marco Huck’s belt…Sorry Golden Tate.  You didn’t catch that ball.  Roger Goodell isn’t fit to carry Pete Rozelle’s coffee mug.

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at [email protected]

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by Bronard on 09-29-2012

Pulev the future? No thanks. No one wants to watch a feather duster HW. People like hard hits and KOs. [SIZE="1"][I]Posted from App for Android[/I][/SIZE]

Comment by D-Uneek on 09-29-2012

Tate did too catch that ball. Go Seahawks!

Comment by The Hammer on 09-29-2012

Excellent article.

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (3)
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