Joshua vs Pulev: AJ out to avoid ‘banana skin’

Anthony Joshua is keen to avoid the “banana skin” that is Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev as he looks to seal a massive world heavyweight title unification showdown with Tyson Fury.

The two British world champions are firmly on collision course to meet – likely next summer – if they come through fights which are planned for December.

First AJ is scheduled to meet IBF mandatory contender Pulev (28-1) at the O2 Arena on Saturday December 12, while Fury has a trilogy fight against Deontay Wilder a week later (venue tbc).

Joshua (23-1) isn’t particularly concerned who has the tougher challenge, he is just focused on making sure he keeps up his end of the bargain. Remember all the talk before he met 30/1 outsider Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019 was of a possible unification clash with Wilder, until Ruiz blew those plans out of the water.

Joshua, speaking at a PR event for the launch of his new BOSS clothing range, told PA: “We’ve got to put them on an equal playing field because if I say ‘I’ve got the bigger test’ or ‘he’s got the bigger test’, you never know what’s going to happen.

“They’re both banana skin fights. It’s like ‘get past this one then there’s the big one next’, so this one is just as important as the big one.

“When the time’s right we’ll fight. We’re keen but I’ve got Kubrat Pulev first which is a mandatory defence, which I have to do. Once I get past that I’m a free agent.

“I’m going to say we’ll fight next year but everything else that comes with it, I’ve just got to put to the back of my mind and just focus on Kubrat Pulev. Once I get past him, hopefully Fury will be the next one in line.”

Fury and his co-promoter Frank Warren have both said openly in recent days they don’t believe Joshua’s camp want to fight them, but Joshua says a lot of things said by his great rival just don’t add up.

He added: “I listened to an interview the other week and (Fury) said that ‘we need to make the fight and stop messing around’.

“But I thought we agreed the fight? Then he said if Dillian wins he’s going to vacate the belt. I just think he’s got a lot of things going on in his life that he says things that don’t really add up.

“I respect him, I don’t really know him but I respect him as a human. I could continue to talk but the best talking will be done in the ring. It’s the best place to let our gloves do the talking.”

It was announced on June 10 that Fury and Joshua had agreed in principle the financial structure for a two-fight deal. The first bout would be a 50-50 revenue split with the winner taking a 60-40 share for the rematch.

The 39-year-old Pulev has already fought for a world title once before, being knocked out by Wladimir Klitschko inside five rounds back in 2014.