UNIFIED IBF and WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is set to fight on October 28 at the Principality stadium in Cardiff.
Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev, the mandatory challenger for the IBF title, is being finalised as Joshua’s opponent for the occasion, while Luis Ortiz tries to press a claim for the WBA belt.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn explained, “That’s the date that we’ve been working towards. There will be an announcement next week for AJ’s next fight and Pulev is the number one target. If it’s not Pulev it will go down the IBF list to [Carlos] Takam. We’ve got the Ortiz situation which we’re dealing with. Following the rules for a unified champion you have to go chronologically in terms of when the mandatories are ordered. The IBF mandatory was ordered nearly a year ago and the WBA one was ordered a couple of months ago. We really want to fight Luis Ortiz in February or March and we’ll do a deal to fight him now. I think what they want is they want to fight [WBC champion Deontay] Wilder, plus get some step aside [money] from us. So that’s what they’re working on and I don’t see why we should. If the rules are going to be followed, which I think they will be, then I don’t think we need to give him step aside. We’d rather he didn’t fight Wilder and we’d rather he fought Joshua. We’ll give a fight at the Millennium stadium, he can have a nice warm up and then we’ll do the fight in February or March.”
“Ortiz is hoping that we get stripped and he gets handed the title. It won’t work like that. If they stripped us we would appeal and that process takes a long time and they’ve got no right to strip us. We’ve got to face our first mandatory,” Hearn continued. “We had an exception to fight [Eric] Molina, then we had an exception via a unification to fight [Wladimir] Klitschko and now we’re out [of exceptions]. We’ve got no more chances. But to be honest if we had a voluntary, Pulev would be the guy we’d be looking at anyway… It’s a really good fight.”
Pulev is the third best heavyweight in the world, after Joshua and WBC titlist Deontay Wilder in the Boxing News rankings, and is a worthy challenger for the unified heavyweight champion. Pulev’s promoter Kalle Sauerland told Boxing News that the Bulgarian is gearing up for October 28. “He’s ready to go. He wants it. Can’t wait to go to the ring. We’re almost there on the contractual stuff. Ready to go,” Sauerland said.
“I think Anthony is great for boxing. He’s a role model,” he continued. “He can box but he’s learning. And Kubrat’s not learning any more.”
“We know what the weaknesses are,” Sauerland warned. “What you need to look at is why he gets hurt, when he gets hurt and it’s things like that they’ll be studying. Also [Pulev] has got a different trainer in the corner than he did in [his 2014] Klitschko fight. He’s got the most successful European trainer in his corner. I love Rob [McCracken] but that includes Rob. He’s created 14 world champions, Uli Wegner, he’s had I think 120 title fights that he’s won in the corner.”
Pulev and Joshua have opponents in common, including Wladimir Klitschko. While Joshua stopped Klitschko in their thrilling fight at Wembley stadium this year, Klitschko halted Pulev when they boxed in 2014. But Sauerland insisted, “Don’t look at the Klitschko fight. If you look at the Klitschko fight you’ve made a big mistake. Watch all the Pulev fights and there’s not one fight where he boxes the style he fought against Klitschko. He went in that ring, he didn’t have a game plan and he tried to leather him and guess what- he did! Klitschko was gone, I was off my seat. [But Klitschko] turned a left hook and he floored him. I’m not saying it was lucky, it was a great move. [But Pulev] wobbled him.”
Sauerland reckons there were still warning signs in Joshua’s victory over Klitschko, when the heavyweight world champion had to rise from the canvas to ultimately finish Klitschko inside 11 rounds. Pulev’s promoter insists that if the Bulgarian had been the one to floor Joshua “he’s not letting him off the hook. He’s not a faded old man”. He maintained, “It was a deer with two legs in the road and he was faced with a 25 tonne truck. It ran out of gas in those rounds. Kubrat won’t run out of gas. He will go straight over the deer and reverse back over it to make sure.”
“The weaknesses are there. Let’s talk about his strengths: speed, power and athleticism,” Sauerland said. “[But Pulev] is a real heavyweight and guess what he can box as well. And he loves to fight bigger guys.”
“A natural heavyweight, he is big. Klitschko size but thicker,” Sauerland added. “The last fight, it was a final tune up against Kevin Johnson, a horrible fight to watch but he was already looking at Joshua.”
“Maybe we should have taken a different fight,” the promoter mused. “But look at the other names he’s boxed… He’s boxed the best challengers that have been there.”
Including Joshua’s contest, there will be at least three world title fights on the October 28 bill with WBA super-flyweight champion Kal Yafai set to box and Irish Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor set to box for her first professional world title. “Then we need to sprinkle in some heavyweight action [on the undercard]. I’m looking to make [Frank] Buglioni against Callum Johnson on that card as well,” Hearn said. “I’d quite like to do [Lawrence] Okolie against Craig Kennedy in Cardiff as an eliminator for the British title. [Joshua] Buatsi’s getting close now. [Joe] Cordina will box on there because obviously he’s Welsh.”
There is a long term plan for Anthony Joshua and his promoter is trying to map out a sequence of fights. Luis Ortiz does feature and could be the next challenger after this. (Hearn even promoted the Cuban in the recent past.) He said, “It was for two fights, with a view to doing the Joshua fight and we still want to do it. I’m speaking to his team. They haven’t boxed since they boxed on our show and that was in December. That was 10 months ago. [Joshua] will not duck a mandatory and he fancies the Ortiz fight and that’s a good fight. So we need those guys because we’ve got a plan of, I say five years, he says 10, where need to line people up and that is Ortiz, Jarrell Miller, Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte and anyone else who comes into the frame. There’s not many. So Ortiz is someone we really want to fight.”
The era of Anthony Joshua it seems is just beginning.
Watch Joshua discuss Wladimir Klitschko declining to take the rematch below: