KUBRAT PULEV (24-1, 13 KOs) and Kevin Johnson (30-7-1, 14 KOs) came face-to-face at a press conference Tuesday at the Hotel Marinela in Sofia ahead of their WBA Intercontinental heavyweight title clash on Friday night at the Arena Armeec.
Pulev makes the first defence of the WBA strap he claimed with a third-round stoppage victory over former world champion Samuel Peter in December, and also risks his IBF mandatory position, which would see him in line to face the winner of Saturday’s World title showdown between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko.
Johnson, the former World title challenger from New Jersey, USA, insists he is not there to make up the numbers, and is also targeting a second shot at World honours as he looks to upset the Bulgarian hero in front of his home fans.
‘’Kevin Johnson is a good boxer who will give everything, but he will not succeed,’’ said Pulev. ‘’My goal is to become world champion. I know a loss will set me back a long way, but I’m confident in my abilities. My opponent is an experienced fighter, who will be difficult to break down, but we’ve prepared for that. On Friday, I want to put on another great show for the Bulgarian people, and then I want my shot at the world title.’’
‘’If Pulev thinks he’s in for an easy night, he’s got another thing coming,’’ said Johnson. ‘’I’m no Samuel Peter. I’m not here to lie down and collect a cheuque, I’m here to cause an upset. I’m going to take this boy to school and show the Bulgarians what a Jersey boy can do. I’m going to give him an ass whopping on Friday, the likes of which nobody has seen before. We’ve both been through the same obstacles and we’ve both fought for world titles before, but only one of us is going to get that second shot, and that’s going to me.’’
Having taken in the sights of Sofia, Johnson also revealed he plans to leave Bulgaria with two souvenirs. ‘’The women here are very beautiful,’’ he said. ‘’And I’m looking to get married. On Saturday, I’m going to be leaving with a new belt and a new wife!’’
Said promoter Nisse Sauerland: ‘’It’s a great weekend for heavyweight boxing. Kubrat is mandatory challenger to face the winner of Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko for the IBF world title. Either they fight him or they vacate the belt. He’s fought hard to get back into this position, and he’s risking it all in this fight against a rejuvenated Kevin Johnson. Kevin also knows what’s at stake and what a win would mean for his career. Both men have been training hard, and are ready to give it their all in the ring on Friday night.’’