IBF and WBA heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua has propelled himself to such lofty status that fights against anyone other than those considered as the best three or four heavyweights in the world receive criticism.
Aged 27 from Watford, England, Joshua is the biggest star in British boxing having become a unified world champion within 19 professional fights. Not only has he won all 19 fights but he has done so with a perfect 100% knockout record that has seen his following become huge.
Both men and women alike love Joshua with his humble personality, good looks and in-ring ability combining to create the perfect marketing tool. He sells out arenas in a matter of minutes and his fights generate huge media interest that very few in the sport of boxing can even relate to.
With such interest comes a lot of pressure to perform and face the worlds very best but in a sport full of governing bodies and politics it simply isn’t possible to face the best one fight after another.
Joshua’s stock is higher than ever having filled Wembley Stadium against Wladimir Klitschko last time out in one of the biggest fights seen on British soil. Both men produced a scintillating display of heavyweight boxing with each fighter being knocked down leaving fans on the edge of their seats.
Joshua seized the advantage late on claiming a stoppage win in a contest that will live long in the memory of all present on the night.
Unfortunately, it was always going to be the case that the next fight failed to live up to the hype of the Klitschko event and with that in mind there has been a somewhat underwhelming response to Joshua’s next defence.
Come October 28th at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Joshua will square off with the experienced Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev in a contest that is being written off by many as a one-sided affair.
Fans have seen Pulev knocked down several times before being stopped by Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014 and are expecting more of the same when he faces Joshua. Whilst this may be the ultimate outcome it is in many respects naive to criticise the fight.
Firstly, as IBF champion Joshua has a responsibility to defend his title against his mandatory challengers or he will be stripped of his belt. Given this Joshua really has little choice but to face Pulev.
Secondly, Kubrat Pulev is a good fighter who is being hugely underestimated. Standing at six foot, four inches tall with a big natural frame, Pulev is a physically strong man with good boxing skill.
This is a man who had a highly successful amateur career including taking gold at the European Championships and Bronze and the World Championships.
Aged 36 he holds a 25-1 professional record that has seen him claim victories over the likes of Alexander Ustinov, Tony Thompson and Dereck Chisora. The one loss on his record came against the aforementioned Wladimir Klitschko who dominated the scene for over a decade.
Losing to Klitschko doesn’t suddenly make you a bad fighter and that is something that needs to be remembered. Pulev is a very good opponent who has the potential to cause Joshua some problems if he can establish his jab.
Many would consider Pulev to be second only to Klitschko in being Joshua’s best opponent to date. Before facing Klitschko no one would have condemned the Pulev fight and fans need to accept that whilst Joshua is clearly a world class fighter he is still very inexperienced and honing his craft.
Fights against the likes of Pulev could well represent good learning experiences for Joshua whilst he waits to face the likes of WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
Whilst many are predicting a relatively easy win for Joshua it has not meant that demand for tickets is low. Like any event involving Joshua, tickets sell out in the blink of an eye. It just goes to show you the pulling power of the man as he can sell out a massive stadium like the Principality against an opponent most are expecting him to knockout within the first half of the fight.
In terms of breaking down the fight itself and giving a prediction, it is hard to not to predict another knockout win for Joshua. He is an athletic, powerful fighter who will want to show the world that he is the very best.
Joshua will feel that he has a point to prove as in some ways he will be unhappy with his display against Klitschko. He was in clear trouble a few times including being knocked down for the first time as a professional.
Some have questioned if he would have survived if Klitschko had gone all out and looked to stop Joshua when he had him wobbled.
We can sit here and hypothesise about ifs and buts all day long but the reality is that Joshua proved that he could dig deep when hurt and come back to claim a stunning knockout win in a fight that wasn’t all going his way.
Joshua answered a lot of questions about his mental strength when the going gets tough but some will state that there are clear vulnerabilities in his chin and stamina that someone may exploit one day but not Pulev.
Pulev doesn’t appear to have the power or speed to cause Joshua enough problems for these vulnerabilities to surface and for that reason backing Joshua to win by knockout within seven rounds looks like the most likely outcome.