Can Kubrat Pulev ruin Anthony Joshua’s plans for Tyson Fury double-header?

British heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will defend his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO belts against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev at the SSE Arena, London, on December 12th

It will be the first time AJ has entered the boxing ring since he regained his titles from American Andy Ruiz Jr. in Saudi Arabia 12 months ago, and the first time since his bout against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium in September 2018 that he has fought on home soil.

With the fight just days away, many people have already written off Pulev’s chances and started to look ahead to Joshua’s next opponent – who is believed to current WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. 

It is heavily reported that the pair have already agreed the financial aspects behind the much-anticipated all-British encounter, which is expected to include two head-to-head fights – the first of which could be early next year!

However, whilst the Watford-born boxer is heavily expected to win on December 12th, especially by those backing him in the Joshua vs Pulev odds from Paddy Power, is there a chance that the Bulgarian can rain on AJ’s parade, and throw the plans for the unification bout against the Gypsy King up in the air? 

Well, Pulev’s promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who has also worked with the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Manny Pacquiao and Fury, certainly thinks his man can do the job, claiming: “Eddie Hearn better watch out. Kubrat Pulev is going to destroy his plan for a Joshua-Tyson Fury unification fight.”

The 39-year-old, who is also known as ‘The Cobra’ or Kobrata in Bulgarian, has very respectable credentials. At amateur level, Pulev won several titles, including gold at the 2008 European Championships and bronze at the 2005 World Championships, whilst as a professional he has lost just one of his 29 fights, and that was to Wladimir Klitschko, who is considered one of the best heavyweights of all time.

Of those 29 bouts, Pulev has won almost half by way of knockout (14), so he’s certainly going to be no pushover for Joshua. 

Meanwhile, the lack of fans will also level the playing field. The bout was supposed to take place back in June at the state-of-the-art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which in normal times would have seen a 62,000+ crowd packed into the North London venue in support of AJ. 

Massive crowds are something AJ has become accustomed to, with almost 340,000 boisterous fight fans buying tickets across his last four bouts on home soil. However, with the fight moved to the Wembley Arena, which will be Joshua’s first outing at the venue, and with just 1,000 fans confirmed to be in attendance, that is a factor that could play in Pulev’s favour. 

Even Matchroom boss Hearn has admitted that the small crowd and unprecedented environment is making him feel ‘extremely nervous’.

“To think that Joshua will box in that kind of an environment in a couple of weeks is actually making me extremely nervous,” the experienced promoter said

“He is used to fighting in front of 90,000 people with fireworks going off in an electric atmosphere.

“Can he get himself motivated and disciplined in the same kind of way, when you can hear a pin drop?”

It hasn’t been the year AJ would have wanted as he aims to re-build his career following the shock defeat to Ruiz Jr. at New York’s iconic Maddison Square Garden, but given Pulev’s experience and the unfamiliar circumstances, it would be foolish to have already ruled out the Bulgarian and look ahead to the blockbuster battles against Fury.