Kubrat Pulev battled COVID-19 in the countdown to his defeat by Anthony Joshua last month – according to his co-promoter Ivaylo Gotzev.
Pulev was knocked out in the ninth round by a dominant Joshua after being put to the sword in a one-sided bout at Wembley Arena.
But according to Gotzev, the Bulgarian veteran went into the world heavyweight title showdown severely hampered by his battle with COVID, which took place just weeks before the fight.
He told Sky Sports: “He didn’t really have the power or the strength, nor did he have the sparring that he needed in preparation. Once again, not excuses, just facts, and that’s what happened.”
Pulev would not pull out again
The 39-year-old Pulev had first been due to challenge for Joshua’s titles back in 2017, but had to pull out late in the day due to a shoulder injury. And after a long wait for that second bite, Gotzev said he was in no mood to give up his chance this time.
“He says, ‘No, I’m going through with it, I’m going to fight AJ, and I know I might never get a third chance at this fight ever again. It was too much to lose, not fighting for all those belts. He really believed in himself. He had a shot at cracking through AJ and he tried.
“Within a month prior to the fight, he had COVID. He had to alter his training and quite honestly I thought we were going home. Me to the US, him to Bulgaria. He met with doctors and he made a decision. He is standing by his decision. He’s a warrior.”
AJ flaws are obvious – Pulev promoter
While Gotzev admits Joshua has undoubted strengths, he says the Watford man is not the complete package and has obvious flaws.
“Look, we’ve always given AJ credit, and I’m giving him credit now, saying he’s a great athletic specimen. He’s fit, he’s physically strong, he can punch, but the weaknesses are obvious.
“There were glimpses of that when AJ was getting frustrated every time that Kubrat got close and punched him. Kubrat just didn’t have enough. It does take your strength. Kubrat, his X-rays showed he went through a pneumonia stage, but he fought it off and he was there for the fight.”
Joshua, who retained his IBF, WBA and WBO world titles with the win over Pulev, is now expected to meet Tyson Fury in a massive unification match this summer (COVID permitting of course).