“There are two options,” IBF mandatory challenger, Kubrat Pulev, told me from the comfort of his home in Sofia, Bulgaria. “You either fight or vacate the title”.
The 39-year-old is bullish in his perception of the heavyweight scene. Despite unavoidable delays due to the worldwide pandemic, “Kobrata” is adamant that Anthony Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, are attempting to avoid facing him any time soon.
“I realise that he is really scared of me,” Pulev continued. “It seems like he is scared, and that’s why he’s trying to postpone or cancel the match.”
Initially scheduled for June 20 inside the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Kubrat Pulev was due to face Anthony Joshua for the unified heavyweight titles in his second shot at world honours. Since losing his only other effort in 2014 against Wladimir Klitschko, Pulev has strung together eight wins, scooping the WBA Inter-Continental and European heavyweight titles.
An injury in 2017 forced Pulev to withdraw from his original bout with AJ, seeing Carlos Takam act as a last-minute replacement.
“We have done everything on our part. We agreed to all the conditions that Joshua’s team asked for, and now it’s up to them. I’m ready to face Joshua; it doesn’t matter where. I’m waiting for Eddie Hearn to finally make a decision where the fight is going to be and get started.”
Eddie Hearn has recently announced his plans for Matchroom Fight Camp in July but doesn’t appear to envisage Joshua–Pulev as a part of that scheduling. Hearn recently told Chris Mannix that “Joshua–Pulev could be a $10 million gate. We can’t just do it behind closed doors.” Talks with the Middle East and Croatia have also made headlines, as a solution is chased in order to put this fight on in front of a crowd.
There seems little doubt that Pulev believes these are simple stalling tactics. Despite colossal money on offer with a live gate, a behind closed doors fight seemingly works fine for him.
“I can’t wait for the match to start. I believe that it’s possible to have a fight without people in the stands. It will even be fiercer. And much more interesting for the TV audience. I’m playing this fight to win it.”
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Pulev has been training in quarantine, making use of his boxing gym which only he can access.
“I enjoyed the training sessions even more, because usually the gym is packed, and now I was by myself,” he confessed. “I’ve not been able to spar. I have strength and conditioning training, and I use the mountains for long walks.”
He’d go on to boast about “beautiful” Mount Vitosha, on the outskirts of Sofia. “It stands at 2,100 meters above sea level and is a great workout.”
With constant speculation regarding an undisputed fight in the heavyweight division, I pressed Pulev on the likelihood of him accepting step aside money for Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury to meet first. An unrealistic scenario, but one that should be considered in this anything-is-on-the-table-world many are trying to embrace as sport begins to return.
“I wouldn’t accept it. I did it once when I didn’t have to do it for him to have his second match against Ruiz Jr. Everything was against IBF’s rules, but I compromised. Enough is enough! I can’t understand why we are still postponing instead of fixing a date and venue and getting to work? I can’t wait to win this fight. So many MMA fixtures are being held, there are boxing fixtures planned for June and July. What’s stopping us? Don’t be scared champ, let’s go! What’s wrong!”
“I’m hungry for a fight. I want to be the guy that holds all the world titles – the unified world champion. I see how people are afraid of me and are trying to face someone else before me. That’s not how a real world champion should act. Even Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield are coming back to the game to show that they are real warriors, not like him [Anthony Joshua]. A year has passed, and they always have a reason to postpone, not to fight against me.
Pulev’s passion for this world title shot is unabating; his belief in beating Joshua holds similar intensity.
“He has a lot of weaknesses. I’ve got a lot of skills, and I surpass him. People underestimate me for a very long time. It’s time to show who the real Kubrat Pulev is.”