Hughie Fury aims to take a massive step towards Heavyweight Title glory this weekend, and follow in the footsteps of his cousin Tyson, who dethroned the great Wladimir Klitschko in 2015. Hughie has missed out on a version of the Title once before, and faces a big task in travelling to his opponents back yard in Bulgaria. He meets former World Title challenger Kubrat Pulev at the Arena Armeec in Sofia, in an IBF Title final eliminator, with the victor surely catapulted into a fight with Anthony Joshua for multiple World Titles in 2019. What is good for UK viewers is that the fight can be seen live on free to air TV as Channel 5 pick up the rights.
Kubrat Pulev (25-1, KO13) v Hughie Fury (21-1, KO11) – 12 Rounds, IBF Heavyweight Title Final Eliminator
Hughie Fury is only 24 years old, but this Saturday night, he attempts to secure a second shot at a version of the Heavyweight crown. His last effort, in September 2017, fell short in a scrappy affair with the then WBO boss, Joseph Parker in Manchester. He was widely outpointed (118-110) on two cards, with the third a draw.
He turned professional at just 19, bizarrely in Canada, with a second round stoppage of David Whittom. This followed a promising amateur career where he won Gold for England at the 2012 Youth World Championships. The usual Heavyweight prospect diet of journeyman opposition followed his win over Whittom, and it would be in his fifteenth fight where he made some waves. scoring an impressive wide points win over Andriy Rudenko in Monte Carlo in February 2015. Three more trial horses followed in George Arias (PTS 10) Emilio Zarate (KO2) and Larry Olubamiwo (TKO1) before he won every round over ten against former fringe contender, Dominick Guinn at Wembley Arena in March 2016. He then boosted his world ranking with a win over Fred Kassi for the WBO Intercontinental Title, but it came at a cost, as a clash of heads left Hughie with a nasty cut to his left eye, meaning the fight had to be halted. Fury won via technical decision on the cards after six completed rounds. It would be seventeen months before he returned, and it would be for the WBO Title against the New Zealander Parker. Fury was forced to pull out of an original May 2017 date in Parker’s home country due to a back injury, so home advantage was secured for Fury in September of the same year, and the fight took place on YouTube pay per view, a first for the sport. It was a difficult fight to watch, with little action of note. Parker eventually forced the pace towards the end and kept his Title via majority decision. Hughie has fought once since, and looked impressive in dropping down in class to pick up the British Title, stopping Sam Sexton in five rounds in May.
It’s testament to Fury’s willingness to take a gamble, to travel to his opponent’s back yard this weekend. Dillian Whyte, Dominic Breazeale and Jarrell Miller have all turned the assignment down, reluctant for the fight to take place in Bulgaria. Fury has a great chance off pulling this off.
If Fury is fresh faced, then Bulgarian, Kubrat Pulev is in the end zone of his career. The 37 year old is a rough, rugged fighter, not afraid of going the distance to win fights. The key here may very well be the home advantage that he has in Sofia. He has had a crack at the Heavyweight Title before, and should have had a second, but he pulled out of an October 2017 fight with Anthony Joshua at short notice due to injury, leaving Carlos Takam to step into the breach in Cardiff.
A pro since September 2009, Pulev is a typical European style fighter. He has beaten some faded forces on his way up. Former World Title challenger Matt Skelton (KO4) the aforementioned Dominick Guinn (UD 8) and former European Champion Paolo Vidoz (UD8) were early names on the Pulev record. He stepped up in class to capture the European Title in May 2012, knocking out Alexander Dimitrenko in eleven rounds. Good solid wins over Alexander Ustinov (KO11) and gatekeeper, Tony Thomson (UD 12) followed as Pulev built a high IBF ranking. He would get his shot in November 2014, challenging Wladimir Klitschko in Germany. Only the IBF Title was on the line as Pulev refused to pay all other bodies’ sanctioning fees. Klitschko hammered Pulev to defeat, knocking him out in five rounds.
The Bulgarian is unbeaten in five since, but at a much lower level. After two wins in eight rounders, he met Britain’s Dereck Chisora for the European Title in Hamburg. Pulev came away with the spoils on an unconvincing split decision. Since then he has fought a badly faded Samuel Peter, who retired hurt in three rounds, and in his last fight, which was in April 2017, he widely outscored the immovable object that is Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson over twelve at the same venue that he will meet Fury this weekend.
Hughie Fury has a lot going for him going into this fight. He has youth and freshness on his side, as well as a hunger to succeed, but I can’t help thinking that this fight is going to come with controversy. Pulev will use his strength to try to bully Fury, and will result in a scrappy affair, possibly with holding a plenty. I think Pulev, especially in Bulgaria, will squeeze home by disputed split decision. Fury’s best chance has to be to go for broke, maybe late on.