Anthony Joshua successfully defended his WBA ‘Super’, IBF, WBO and IBO Heavyweight titles with a ninth round knockout victory over the Kubrat Pulev at SSE Arena, Wembley on Saturday.
Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) and Pulev (28-2, 14 KOs) were set to collide at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in June this year, but the pandemic sadly put paid to that spectacle.
Pulev (28-2, 14 KOs) awaited his foe on the balls of his feet ahead of the opening bell, and the pair were cagey and trying to establish their jabs early on, in what was an opening round devoid of action.
Joshua finally opened up halfway through the second, but the Bulgarian smiled in the heat of battle, and landed a nice left hook of his own.
‘The Cobra’ was trying to inch closer to the Brit, but was being kept on the end of a sturdy jab, and the pair exchanged barbs at the end of the session as emotions boiled over.
The third saw the breakthrough, with Joshua landing a flush right hand that had Pulev all at sea, and several follow up power punches from the champion had the Sofia native disoriented, and he turned his back on his opponent, as he tottered towards the corner, where he was counted by the referee.
On the resumption, an uppercut again unhinged Pulev, and further power punches drove him to the canvas for a second knockdown.
Again, ‘The Cobra’ bravely beat the count, and survived the round. Despite the onslaught in that round, Pulev cleared the fog, and had his best round in the fourth, inching closer and holding his own.
The 39-year-old also took a crunching right hand in the fifth, but connected with a solid right of his own, as he grew in confidence in the face of an imposing task.
Joshua, 30, was pacing himself well, landing multiple uppercuts in the seventh, but he had to take a well timed right hand in the eighth and had to be on his mettle at all times.
The uppercuts were the telling shots from Joshua, and he unloaded more powerful shots that felled the visitor for a third time, and his spirit had been drained from him.
Pulev beat the count, but a hellacious left-right combination left the Bulgarian flat on his back, and the fight was over.
Joshua exited the ring to receive congratulations from Floyd Mayweather Jr who was in attendance, and returned to extinguish the previous bad blood between him and Pulev, as they showed mutual respect towards each other.
Talk was always going to turn to the undisputed Heavyweight title, with Tyson Fury holding the WBC title. 2021 could well see Joshua vs Fury come to fruition.
“Less talk more action. Boxing is all about that, I hope everyone was satisfied by that tonight,” said Joshua to Sky Sports post-fight.
“I stuck to what I know best, boxing, looking at where I’m going to put my shots and executing.
“You ask the crowd what they want to see, that’s not my job. Whoever has the belt, I want them. If that person is Tyson Fury, then let my next fight be Tyson Fury.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn echoes Joshua’s sentiments, and focused his efforts on securing the Fury super fight next for his charge.
“We know what we have to do, starting tomorrow we make the Tyson Fury fight straight away,” Hearn told Sky Sports.
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) December 13, 2020
“It’s about legacy and we will get it done.”
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Okolie powers past Jezewski
Laurence Okolie got over the disappointment of a cancelled world title shot by stopping Nikodem Jezewski inside two one-sided rounds to pick up the vacant WBO International Cruiserweight title.
A wicked body shot dropped the Pole in the first half of the opening round, and when the action resumed, it was one-way traffic, with the visitor hurt with every power punch.
Okolie (15-0, 12 KOs) landed a straight right hand that jarred Jezewski’s legs, and forced him to the canvas for a second time. It was never going to last much longer, and the end duly came halfway through round two, with another chopping right hand to the chin flooring Jezewski (19-1-1, 9 KOs) yet again.
This time, on rising, referee Phil Edwards had seen enough, and the contest was waved off.
Fury battles past Wach
Hughie Fury (25-3, 14 KOs) had to deal with a horrid looking cut early on, but turned in a measured and mature performance as he outscored Mariusz Wach (36-7, 19 KOs) over ten at Heavyweight.
Fury has had a stop-start career, and he breathed new life into his career with a wide win on the cards by scores of 100-90 twice and 99-91.
Bakole overcomes Kuzmin challenge
Martin Bakole (16-1, 12 KOs) took a clear points win in the other Heavyweight offering on the bill, overcoming Sergey Kuzmin (15-2, 11 KOs) over ten rounds.
The early going was give and take stuff, but once the fight settled, Bakole controlled the action in the main, and took the win by scores of 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94.
Marku held to a draw
Albanian wrecking ball Florian Marku was was forced to settle for a draw over eight rounds at Welterweight with the game Jamie Stewart.
Marku (7-0-1, 5 KOs) who made his Matchroom Boxing debut made a breakthrough towards the end of the second, when a thudding left hand body shot forced his late notice opponent to drop to the canvas, but Stewart (2-0-1) rallied in the later rounds, as Marku tired.
Still, it looked as though Marku had done enough to get the nod, but referee Marcus McDonnell had other ideas, and saw the contest a 76-76 stalemate.
Conway dominates McGowan
Kieron Conway shrugged off a late notice change of opponent, as he dominated Macaulay McGowan over ten rounds at Super Welterweight.
McGowan (14-2-1, 3 KOs) was felled by an accumulation of punches in the eighth, as he was gradually busted up during the contest, and he did well to negotiate his way to the final bell under heavy fire, where the result was academic.
Two scores of 100-89, and a third at 100-90 declared Conway (16-1-1, 3 KOs) an emphatic winner.
Ashfaq back to winning ways
Qais Ashfaq (9-1, 4 KOs) kicked off the off TV preliminaries, and notched an impressive fourth round stoppage win over former Commonwealth champion, Ashley Lane (14-10-2, 1 KO).
Ashfaq scored knockdowns in rounds one and three, and finished the job a round later to lay some demons to rest of his first pro defeat to Marc Leach last time out.