On what was an absolutely packed Saturday of Boxing all over the world. It was the return of the sports biggest star that captured the attention of the boxing world. After year-long hiatus from prizefighting, due mainly to the pandemic, the unified Heavyweight Champion of the world was set to return to the ring. Anthony Joshua stepped foot in the SSE Arena, Wembley in front of 1,000 paid fans. It wasn’t just Joshua’s return to the ring it was the first-time fans gathered for a professional boxing match in England since the Covid-19 outbreak. Joshua would not let his adoring fans down as he put forth a spectacular performance, that ranks among his most brilliant performances of his seven-year pro career, in absolutely destroying Kubrat Pulev. Stopping the mandatory challenger inside of nine-rounds to defend his WBA, IBF, and WBO world heavyweight titles, move his record to 24-1 (22) and capture our Fighter of the Week award.
Kubrat Pulev is a legitimate and worthy mandatory challenger whose only defeat came back in 2014 when he was stopped by the legendary Wladimir Klitschko. Since then Pulev ran off eight straight victories to get himself back in the title picture. If Pulev could win the battle of the jabs he would have a legitimate shot to pull the upset. However, this was not to be. From the opening bell on AJ out jabbed the challenge. After a slow-paced opening two rounds, the champ then picked up the pace in round three battering the overmatched challenger with a series of right hands that dropped him twice and had him out on his feet. Somehow a motivated Pulev kept it together and survived the tumultuous round. The Brit remained in control winning the next two rounds with his jab and straight right and mixing in uppercuts when Pulev was in range. Desperately behind on points going into the sixth Pulev picked up the aggression, trying to get on the inside. Those attempts were snuffed out by the movement and counter shots by the champ. In the seventh round Joshua battered Pulev with a jab to the body followed by a right hand that caught his opponent’s attention, the champ followed up with a series of uppercuts that left Pulev badly hurt midway through the seventh. The writing was on the wall Pulev was out of his league and was not going to be able to figure out the champ. The only question left was could he survive till the final bell. AJ answered the question emphatically in the ninth. With 40 seconds left the champ landed a violent right uppercut staggering the challenger and added two more putting the challenger on the ground a third time. The rugged Bulgarian somehow made it to his feet but was immediately sent flying across the ring and down for good, this time courtesy of a massive right hand from Joshua. Giving Joshua the ninth round KO and the first successful defense of his second title reign.
The options for the unified champs next opponent has already been widdled down to two fighters. Luckily, either name would be great for fight fans around the world. The big prize, of course, would be a showdown for undisputed heavyweight supremacy with Tyson Fury. A Fury/Joshua fight is the biggest and most lucrative fight that can be made in boxing today. Promoter Eddie Hearn said post-fight it’s the biggest fight in British boxing history. It would also produce the first undisputed heavyweight champ in the four-belt era. However, there are hurdles that could hold up this fight. Deontay Wilder is taking it to the courts to try and force his now expired rematch clause to be exercised. WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk is pushing to exercise his mandatory status and fight AJ next. If the WBO forces the mandatory it’s still a great scrap for fight fans as Usyk, who is considered among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world would look to become a unified champ in two weight classes and has a unique skill set that could make for a very intriguing heavyweight prizefight.