Kubrat Pulev defeated Hughie Fury via unanimous decision Saturday in an IBF heavyweight world-title final eliminator at the Arena Armeec in Sofia, Bulgaria. Pulev becomes the mandatory challenger for heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
The 37-year-old Pulev (26-1, 13 KOs) put on a dominant display in front of a home crowd to win 117-111, 118-110 and 115-113 on the judges’ cards. He controlled the center of the ring as he won rounds convincingly, and he used his experience to get in close and regularly land overhand rights.
Fury (21-2, 11 KOs) started the faster of the two in this scrappy bout, landing a pair of right hands. Pulev landed a straight left hand that opened a cut on Fury’s left eye the needed attention from his corner after the second round. Worried about the cut, Fury fought the rest of the fight on the back foot, trying to protect his eye, but he was continually caught by Pulev’s leading left hand.
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With the blood from the cut temporarily stemmed at the start of the fifth round, Fury, not throwing his jab, waited for a moment to land his right hand, to little effect. He did, however, rock Pulev in the eighth round but couldn’t land a knockout punch. That allowed Pulev recovered.
Pulev responded by rocking Fury in the ninth. He continued to land his jab followed by right hooks to Fury’s head. Pulev didn’t have enough to land a knockout blow, however.
The victory gives Pulev a second chance to face Joshua. Pulev pulled out of their previously scheduled bout in October 2017 because of an injury. His replacement, Carlos Takam, stepped in on short notice and was defeated via a 10th-round TKO.
The IBF is notorious for forcing its champions to face their mandatory challengers or to vacate the belt. This could work in Pulev’s favor; unless a unification fight is made for Joshua to face the winner of the Dec. 1 fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, Pulev could well fight Joshua on April 13 at Wembley Stadium in London.
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