Anthony Joshua Ready to Defend Heavyweight Titles Against Kubrat Pulev

WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will defend the belts against Kubrat Pulev this weekend in London.

Updated: Dec. 10, 2020 • 2:01 PM ET

Anthony Joshua is looking to retain his titles this weekend.

WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will return to the ring this Saturday to defend his belts against Kubrat Pulev in London.

Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) will defend the titles for the first time since winning them back from Andy Ruiz last December. The win avenged the only loss of his professional career, one of the biggest upsets in recent memory when Ruiz defeated Joshua by seventh-round TKO in June 2019.

In the immediate rematch, Joshua fought a measured fight and out-boxed an out of shape and timid Ruiz.

“I went straight into the learning phase again,” the 31-year-old Joshua told the BBC’s 5 Live Boxing podcast about his time leading up to the second fight against Ruiz.

“I learned about the mental aspect of the game, as well, so I got tougher. Unfortunately, it led to a performance where I had to stick-and-move, because I didn’t want to be labeled a quitter or a loser or someone who’s not meant to be part of the heavyweight dynasty that we’re in right now.

“I felt that pressure. Looking back, I would love to go back and fight Ruiz again because rematch or no rematch, I’d knock him out because I’ve become tougher, more relentless over the last year.”

Although he’ll fight Pulev this weekend, the boxing world is still waiting for Joshua to fight fellow British champion and WBC belt-holder Tyson Fury. Joshua, though, will have his hands full with the Bulgarian challenger this weekend and cannot look past him toward a fight with Fury or anyone else.

The 39-year-old Pulev has won eight straight fights since challenging Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko for the IBF title in 2014. Joshua defeated Klitschko in 2017 by 11th-round TKO in one of the best back-and-forth heavyweight fights in the last 10 years, silencing his harshest critics by finishing who they considered to be his first real test up to that point. Since that bout, Joshua has wins over Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin, not to mention proving that he could avenge the embarrassing loss to Ruiz.

As far as fighting Fury, Joshua said, "I'm just going to bide my time. When he's ready, he knows where I am. I'm keen, I'm a straight shooter, I don't want to mess around. If he wants to fight, he knows I'll fight him. The longer he leaves it, the worse it is."

A fight with Fury likely won’t happen if Joshua loses on Saturday. He proved against Klitschko and Ruiz that he can overcome adversity, but Pulev also thinks a win on Saturday would mean a matchup for himself with Fury.

“I can’t say it’s the final fight for me,” Pulev told Matchroom Boxing. “No, no, no, absolutely not, because I feel good, I feel healthy, I feel happy, I feel strong and I have a lot of energy and much power. I think after this fight, I’m going to fight with Tyson Fury.”

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Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) has key wins over Tony Thompson, Dereck Chisora, Samuel Peter, Kevin Johnson and Hughie Fury. He isn’t just fighting for himself, but for his entire country.

“This fight for me is not only for me, not only just boxing, this fight is for all Bulgarian boxing because nobody was the heavyweight champion of the world, and that’s why it will be for me,” Pulev said. “It’ll be really good for my country, for my people, the Bulgarian people.”

Pulev thinks this will be a different kind of title fight than the first one he was involved in.

“I will be absolutely different, because I have a lot of experience from that fight, and now I will be a new Kubrat Pulev,” Pulev said when asked how he’s different from the fighter from the one that was knocked out by Wladimir Klitschko in 2014.

Many pundits believe Joshua is taking a real chance at fighting Pulev before a potential fight with Fury, and a Pulev win would be one of the biggest upsets of 2020.

• How to watch/start time: The main card can be seen on DAZN at 2 p.m. EST this Saturday.

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