Anthony Joshua’s second title reign will last a little more than a year only because he hasn’t fought since regaining his slew of heavyweight belts.
At least, that’s the story Kubrat Pulev chooses to tell the world.
The incoming IBF mandatory challenger from Bulgaria has been brimming with confidence for as long as he has been in line to challenge for a piece of the heavyweight crown. Nearly two years in waiting, Pulev (28-1, 14KOs) finally gets his chance as he faces England’s Joshua (23-1, 21KOs) on December 12, which will air live on Sky Sports Box Office (U.K.) and DAZN (U.S.) from SSE Arena-Wembley in London, England.
"This is going to be a mind game and a chess game for as long as it lasts – a master chess game – but the only difference is the end is going to come like lightning.” Pulev insisted in a recent interview with Betway Insider blog. “I can tell the fans that I will expose AJ again and prove they have been idolizing the wrong guy. I will expose him to the world for a second time.”
Pulev earned his place at the table after outpointing England’s Hughie Fury in their October 2018 title eliminator in his hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria. Just two fights have since followed for the 2008 Olympian and former title challenger, having been out of the ring since a methodical 10-round points win over Rydell Booker last November.
That fight came about as a consolation to his reluctant concession in allowing Joshua to enter a rematch with his lone conqueror, Andy Ruiz. Joshua suffered a 7th round knockout loss to the Mexican heavyweight from Imperial, California last June at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Because it was a voluntary title defense, Joshua’s team was able to insert a rematch clause which was immediately enforced.
However, it became a legal matter as Pulev was due to next face the winner. His team sought to take the matter to court, only for a resolution to be reached where the IBF begrudgingly allowed Ruiz-Joshua II with the written declaration that the winner next face Pulev to avoid being stripped of the title.
Joshua claimed a decisive 12-round decision win over an ill-prepared Ruiz last December in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia to regain his titles, if not his place all the way back at the top of the heavyweight mountain. As far as his next challenger sees it, none of what took place in the Middle East helped erase what was exposed six months prior in New York City.
“I have been watching his fights carefully. He has a good style and he is a good specimen, but he has not shown any mental toughness,” insists the 39-year old Pulev, who has won eight straight since a 5th round knockout loss to Wladimir Klitscho in a failed November 2014 title bid. “Yes, he has skills, but he hasn't shown the mental strength. This is something from within, in the blood of a man, and he does not have it.
“Whatever mental toughness he’s got, I know I'm the harder person. This is the difference - my toughness will prevail.”
While guarding against looking against the fight directly in front of him, Joshua has vowed to steamroll Pulev before moving on to fully unifying the heavyweight division.
“He must have learnt that from Andy Ruiz because that's what happened to him,” dismisses Pulev. “Let’s see what happens.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox