DAVE COLDWELL: AJ can exploit Pulev and unravel him with the left hook

Anthony Joshua is BACK after a year out of the ring… and our boxing expert DAVE COLDWELL explains how AJ can exploit holes in Kubrat Pulev’s armour and unravel him with a long left hook to make sure his showdown with Tyson Fury isn’t derailed

  • Anthony Joshua fights for the first time in a year when he takes on Kubrat Pulev
  • A fight with Tyson Fury is on the horizon if Joshua can successfully defend titles 
  • Pulev is a solid opponent but he makes mistakes and AJ can captalise on them  
  • Joshua will want to get the stoppage and do a better job on him than Klitschko 

Anthony Joshua will finally make his long-anticipated return to the ring when he defends his heavyweight world titles against Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night.

In his first Sportsmail column, highly-respected trainer and pundit Dave Coldwell breaks down the fight for us.

There’s been a lot of talk about Anthony Joshua’s year out of the ring and how it could give Kubrat Pulev a greater chance of springing an upset.

I’m not so sure. If anything I think it actually counts against Pulev.

Pulev has been out of action for the same amount of time and you’ve got to look at the stage he’s at in his career. At 39, he’s not getting any younger and I know Joshua has been putting a lot of work in behind closed doors over the past 12 months.

Anthony Joshua defends his world heavyweight titles against Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night

I was so impressed with how Joshua performed in his last fight against Andy Ruiz Jr, especially considering the pressure he was under; he had everything riding on that fight and to try out a new style and implement it as effortlessly as he did just shows you the mental fortitude of the man.

Of course a little bit of ring rust is to be expected but I’m anticipating him being better on Saturday than he was that night in Saudi Arabia because he’s had a whole year to improve on it and get comfortable with that style.

What I hope to see and what I’m expecting to see is a blend of the old come-forward, aggressive combination-punching AJ with the one we saw in the Ruiz rematch where there was constant movement and he was boxing on the back foot in this fluid style.

Pulev is the underdog and will leave gaps when he goes on the attack that AJ can exploit

So I think we’re going to see bouts of movement from Joshua to take away Pulev’s jab and range but then also AJ getting in range and firing off his heavy artillery. If he can do that then I don’t think Pulev will know what hit him – and it makes AJ harder to read for future opponents.

I won’t be the first person to tell Pulev this, but he is up against it on Saturday night. I remember when he first turned professional and they were expecting him to be the heir apparent to Klitschko and then obviously he got absolutely hammered by him. 

He’s won every fight since then but it’s been a slow-burning career and Klitschko aside, he’s got a very underwhelming record. He’s never set the world alight which makes you wonder if the people behind him actually really believe in him.

Going back a couple of years ago when they were first supposed to fight, I would have given Pulev more of a chance but there’s been an evolution of Joshua, even if people don’t want to give him credit for it.

Joshua’s been working on a long left hook in the gym and it may be the shot that unravels Pulev

Pulev has always had this reputation for being a solid heavyweight: he has got a stiff jab and a decent right hand, but he makes basic mistakes. He leaves gaps and lifts his chin up when he goes on the attack and opens himself up to being countered. 

Now that Joshua’s got this looser and fluid style he’ll be able to capatlise on that. He’s been working on a long left hook in the gym and I can see it being the shot that unravels Pulev.

Watching back some of Pulev’s recent fights he has looked slow and ponderous and he’s historically struggled against taller opponents. Against Hughie Fury, he couldn’t really get anything of note off and I just can’t see him having the foot speed to close the range and do any damage to Joshua, especially now he is lighter on his feet.

AJ won’t say it but he’ll want to do a better job on Pulev than Wladimir Klitschko did in 2014

I wasn’t surprised to read that Pulev has been referencing the first fight with Andy Ruiz and saying that he believes he has the superior mental strength. It’s the same old thing of everyone thinking if they can get to Joshua, they can hurt him. That’s what you do as the underdog, you have to search for any crumb of comfort or possible chink in the armour.

For Joshua he will be looking to make a statement and I think stopping Pulev would be a good one. He won’t say it but he will want to do a better job on him than Klitschko did.

Obviously a points win is still the result he’s looking for but I think he will be disappointed and a bit miffed by that. He’ll want to send a message to Tyson Fury and go into a undisputed clash off the back of a stoppage.

Joshua will want to go into an undisputed fight with Tyson Fury off the back of a stoppage

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