Anthony Joshua surely lined up a massive showdown with Tyson Fury next summer with a ninth-round knockout of Kubrat Pulev in London on Saturday night.
AJ produced a beautiful right hand to send the durable Bulgarian to the canvas for the third time of the evening and finally close the show. It put the exclamation point on a dominant victory, with only the granite chin of Pulev taking the bout into its second half.
A crowd of 1000 was on hand at the SSE Arena, Wembley – and AJ produced some highlight-reel moments as boxing finally welcomed fans back to elite events. He retained his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles and now surely will seal the deal for a megafight with Fury next summer.
Thanks for coming 💥 pic.twitter.com/zvDVXPNLwK
— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) December 13, 2020
The opening round was extremely cagey with both men reticent to lead off, and throwing a million feints. AJ established his jab just a little better to claim the session, though Pulev did land a nice left hook late on. It wasn’t until the closing seconds that Joshua tried to unload with that big right hand – it was blocked by the Bulgarian.
Round 2 was another for Joshua as he again boxed nicely behind that spearing jab. He also unleashed a lovely combination which Pulev ate before smiling back at the champion. The pair exchanged angry words as the bell rang to end the round.
Joshua goes up a gear
Joshua raised the pace in the third to take complete control. First a big right hand buckled the legs of Pulev midway through the session and he turned his back on AJ before taking a standing count. The Bulgarian showed an incredible chin to stay on his feet, but eventually was clubbed to the deck by a furious AJ onslaught (highlighted by a trademark uppercut) with 30 seconds remaining. Somehow Pulev got to his feet, and was able to make it to the end of the round.
Pulev recovered remarkably well for the fourth, and it was a relatively quiet three minutes as he tried again to get inside and limit the effectiveness of that Joshua jab. Scoring shots were at a premium but again AJ was doing the better of the work.
Joshua was on top for much of the fifth – and Pulev was forced to eat a lovely straight right as the session entered its final minute. But the Bulgarian came back with a couple of nice shots late in the round to show he wasn’t out of this yet.
Game Pulev mounts fightback
The sixth was Pulev’s best round so far, as he continued to grow in confidence and started to commit more power to that right hand set up by the left jab. Joshua though finished the round better, moving well and again popping out that effective jab.
As the fight moved into the second half, Joshua unleashed another impressive combination but yet again Pulev smiled back after using that granite chin to eat the punches. He finished the round better too, jabbing nicely and then landing another right to keep Joshua honest.
The eighth began with Pulev landing a sweet right, and that spurred AJ back into offensive action as he responded with a violent flurry. The rest of the session saw Joshua using the jab to the body to stop the Bulgarian getting inside.
AJ closes the show in nine
Joshua was back on his A game in the ninth and a trio of beautiful uppercuts softened up the durable Pulev. Shortly after, another uppercut landed the Bulgarian on the canvas for a second time. Pulev got slowly to his feet but was clearly in big trouble. And as the round drew to a close, AJ finished matters with a stunning right hand that decked Pulev for the third and final time of the night.
Referee Deon Dwarte counted Pulev out to hand Joshua another victory, and surely a ticket to that superfight against Fury next summer.
Joshua improves to 24-1 with the victory, and 22 of those wins have come inside distance. Pulev meanwhile drops to 28-2.