BOXING analyst Nick Munday (@NM_Sport) shares his betting thoughts on Saturday night's battle between Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev.
Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev | Saturday 12th December 2020, 22:15 | Sky Sports Box Office
WBA, WBO and IBF world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua returns against Kubrat Pulev this weekend, hoping to set up a colossal clash with Tyson Fury in 2021.
One year ago, Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) bounced back from a damaging upset loss to Andy Ruiz Jr, outpointing the Mexican in a 7/2 winner for this column to reclaim his world titles.
Joshua trimmed down for that fight and opted to box his way to victory, and he’s likely to weigh in slightly lighter again for this one.
IBF mandatory challenger Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) was European champion twice between 2012 and 2016. His sole career defeat came in 2014, when a spiteful Wladimir Klitschko destroyed the Bulgarian in five. Pulev was floored four times by Klitschko's left hook, showing vulnerabilities against his bigger and heavy-handed opponent.
In recent years he’s earned decision victories over Dereck Chisora (2016), Kevin Johnson (2017), and Hughie Fury (2018) but hasn’t fought anyone close to Joshua’s level since the Klitschko annihilation.
This was a more interesting match-up when the original bout was scheduled for November 2017, before the challenger pulled out with an injury. Pulev is 39 years old now and rated as a 7/1 chance to become world heavyweight champion.
Pulev is good at the basics, has a good jab and is physically strong – but he’s past his best. He normally tries to bully opponents but may find that tricky this weekend. His best chance is to start fast, assert himself early and test Joshua's chin, just like Ruiz did multiple times in that famous back-and-forth battle. However, this could leave him open to counters and his style looks suited to the Londoner.
ANOTHER KO FOR AJ
While Joshua will want to banish any lingering doubts from the Ruiz loss and put on a show for the 1,000 fans at Wembley Arena, he’ll know that he can’t afford to take any unnecessary risks early on. There is already a lot of talk about an all-British blockbuster with Fury in 2021, but AJ won’t be looking past Pulev.
Bookmakers aren’t expecting a long night with a Joshua KO/TKO just 2/5, and a stoppage between round 1-6 available at 11/8. That’s understandable, considering 16 of his victories have come in the first six rounds. However, his last five wins have either been on points or between round 7-12.
After 12 months out of the ring – and with the Ruiz knockout loss still fresh in the memory – we could see a tentative start before Joshua finds his rhythm and starts to utilise the reach and height advantage. Pulev likes to plod forward, so AJ shouldn’t have any problems finding the target and can break down the ageing challenger in the middle rounds. I’ve also had a small play in the #WhatOddsPaddy market.
Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev Anthony Joshua in Round 5-8 (2/1 William Hill)
Anthony Joshua vs Kubrat Pulev – Kubrat Pulev to be knocked down in Rounds 3-4 and Anthony Joshua to win in Rounds 5-6 (11/2 Paddy Power)