Anthony Joshua did his job on Saturday in London, retaining his WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titles via ninth round knockout against IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.
Joshua (24-1, 22 KO) was cautious but sharp in this fight, doing some of what we saw in his Dec. 2019 rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, but also opening up a bit more and throwing the power shots when he felt more comfortable. A right uppercut particularly troubled and ultimately decimated Pulev (28-2, 14 KO), who was down twice in the third round but managed to survive, until being put down two more times in the ninth.
On the final knockdown, it seemed Pulev, 39, could have gotten up, but he took the count on his knees. He’d had enough. And though the weigh-in got loud and the fight was very chippy — both fouled plenty, Pulev throwing rabbit punches, Joshua throwing a series of late shots on breaks in retaliation — the post-fight was respectful between the two, with Pulev accepting he was the beaten man.Joshua, at 31, continues to say he wants the biggest fights. This fight was billed as the “Road to Undisputed,” and that was touched on in the post-fight interview.
“It’s not about the opponent, it’s about the legacy and the belt,” Joshua said when asked about fighting Tyson Fury next. “If that is Tyson Fury, let it be Tyson Fury. It’s no big deal.”It again has to be said that Joshua has a WBO mandatory due against Oleksandr Usyk, and Joshua has no intention of vacating that belt to fight Fury instead. If the WBO make that order official to come next, Joshua almost certainly will be fighting Usyk in the spring, as Usyk has repeatedly stated he will not step aside.“We know what we have to do, starting from tomorrow, we make the Tyson Fury fight straight away,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “It’s the biggest fight in British boxing history.”
Hearn knows very well, of course, that the Usyk mandatory looms, but he is selling hype while there’s hype to sell. You can’t blame him. He’s the salesman. But we are one fight closer to a potential undisputed heavyweight title fight either way. One domino has fallen. We’ll see where we go now.