Boxing

AJpromises destruction after being riled in verbal joust with Pulev

Anthony Joshua promises to get destructive after being riled in verbal joust with Kubrat Pulev… and he needs to prove it ahead of anticipated Tyson Fury title unification bout

  • Anthony Joshua will defend his world heavyweight titles against Kubrat Pulev
  • The British star is overwhelming favourite to see off the unfancied Bulgarian
  • But Joshua seemed rattled during the weigh-in between the pair on Friday
  • AJ has promised to put on a convincing display at Wembley Arena on Saturday 

After the squabble comes the skirmish. The intrigue now is whether Kubrat Pulev is capable of troubling Anthony Joshua with his fists in the same manner that he did with his words at the weigh-in on Friday.

Perhaps what we saw within the Wembley Hilton was all a ruse, one of those pantomimes where a drop of spite can do a lot for pay-per-view revenues.

But such a theory does a slight disservice to the impression here that Joshua was riled by his Bulgarian challenger.

Anthony Joshua has promised a destructive showing against Kubrat Pulev on Saturday

Indeed, there has been a whiff of mystery all week about the champion’s mood, which was described by Eddie Hearn as ‘nervous and edgy’ on Wednesday and possibly also had a bearing on his unconventional decision to spar right up until Thursday.

By Friday, he was being separated from Pulev while calling him a ‘p***y’.

The initial trigger point? Pulev had called out ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’ as Joshua stepped on to the scales. On the slender chance that any of his family get him tickets to Annie on Broadway, they should know it might provoke a scene.

Of course, all of the above are straws to clutch at, and maybe nothing more, if the desire is to see some uncertainty in a fight that otherwise appears straightforward for Joshua.

The two squared up ahead of the fight at the weigh-in on Friday, which quickly became heated

To appreciate the weight of consensus around this match-up, consider the struggle to find anyone who will predict an upset.

It is probably instructive to know that when Pulev’s own brother, Tervel, was asked by Sportsmail to call it, he would not go further than to say ‘very close’.

Most have Joshua winning in the first half of the fight, with Pulev thought unsuited to the sort of heavy-handed bullying that served Andy Ruiz so well in that spectacular win 18 months ago.

Joshua reinvented himself as a jabber in a functional performance to regain the IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO belts in the rematch a year ago, but this fight ought to see a return to something more dramatic. Certainly there is a pressure to do so, given how devastating Tyson Fury looked in beating Deontay Wilder at the start of the year.

When that viewpoint was put to Joshua, he offered a colourful hint of what might follow on Saturday.

‘Yeah, but remember it took a long time for Tyson Fury to become destructive,’ he said.

‘I’ve been that destructive ever since I started boxing so, for me, I’m just going to do the job in the best way possible because, No 1, remaining champion is important in whatever fashion.

Pulev’s words seemed to rile up Joshua who is the overwhelming favourite to win on Saturday

‘I’m ready for a 12-round fight if that is the case. But if a shot lands and causes a lot of damage, I will be looking to take him out. That doesn’t leave someone. Once a killer, always a killer.

‘I sleep good. Certain people can’t sleep at night because they’re really tuned up for a fight but I must be a good psychopath because I’m sleeping like a baby. I’m not worried.’

Interestingly, he pretty much swerved all other talk of Fury based on the risk that next year’s £100million payday against the WBC champion might evaporate along with his reputation if he falls at Wembley’s SSE Arena.

Remote as that possibility might seem, it is not lost on Joshua that a few favourites have taken a beating in this strangest of years.

In recent weeks alone, Daniel Dubois and Anthony Yarde have been jabbed out of fights they were expected to win, which plays to the argument that empty arenas offer an advantage to a certain style.

Pulev is hoping to cause a huge upset by claiming the world heavyweight titles from Joshua

Joshua’s tangle with another technician in Pulev will at least have a crowd, albeit one of only 1,000.

‘He’s got a good jab, hasn’t he?’ Joshua said. ‘The jabbers have done well this year. The ones with the right strategy have done well this year.

‘The ones who said, “I’m gonna go in there and do a number on him” have come unstuck.

‘The ones who took it seriously and didn’t underestimate people were OK. That’s why all the questions outside of what’s happening after Saturday night can wait. It’s solely about Kubrat Pulev. My focus is not about anyone else.

‘Look at the Joe Joyce-Dubois situation, Yarde and Lyndon Arthur. I’ve got to take Pulev seriously and it won’t be a walk in the park because if I don’t we’ve seen what can happen.’

Joshua hopes to put on a convincing defence ahead of an anticipated bout with Tyson Fury

It is still rather hard to swallow Joshua’s claim that ‘this fight (against Pulev) will define me’. That will surely be decided by his fight with Fury next year, if promising negotiations develop into a showdown for the ages.

In the meantime he faces one last stepping stone and an engaging character in Pulev, who has taken to training beyond 11pm most nights at the hotel and chatting through the days. Joshua has been far less visible.

Joshua added: ‘I spend a lot of time on YouTube listening to quotes and speakers. There have been great warriors who have conquered the world. I listen to a lot of the world conquerors who have done amazing things. I listen to what they say and it gives me motivation and understanding. I’m part of their lineage.

‘I’m just trying to conquer one man on Saturday night.’




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