Tony "The Tiger" Thompson is hoping for a third try at beating Wladimir Klitschko (assuming Wlad holds the IBF belt by then), while unbeaten Kubrat Pulev is just looking to secure his first opportunity. The IBF has approved a final eliminator bout between Thompson and Pulev for August 24, and Sauerland is working on finalizing the deal.
Thompson (38-3, 26 KO) has stormed back into the land of relevant heavyweights this year by stopping David Price on two occasions, taking his spotless record in February in two rounds, and wearing out the big Brit in five rounds in their July rematch. Thompson will turn 42 in October, but he just refuses to go away.
Whether the wins over Price mean something major, or they just mean that David Price isn't as good as advertised by a long shot, Thompson has fought his way back into this spot. But Pulev (17-0, 9 KO) is another challenge. He's not as big or purely powerful as Price, but the 32-year-old Bulgarian was an accomplished amateur who has passed all the tests thus far as a pro. His skills are very real, and with a 6'4" frame that usually carries about 250 pounds, he's got the size to be a legitimate player in today's heavyweight scene, too.
One thing that might be a factor in Thompson's favor is Pulev's inactivity. He has not fought since knocking out lumbering Alexander Ustinov in 11 rounds last September, so we're talking about what will amount to an 11-month layoff by the time he faces Thompson. That could be interesting -- Thompson has a lot of momentum now and must be feeling really confident, and he's fighting like every time out will be the last shot he gets to keep moving forward. If Pulev isn't ready, we could see Thompson knock off another unbeaten prospect.
Who do you like in this matchup? Will Pulev move into the mandatory slot, or can Thompson do it again?