BULGARIA’S Kubrat Pulev, unbeaten at 20-0 (11) and the No.1 contender with the IBF, gets his long-awaited shot at heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko on September 6. The 33-year-old is seen by a number of good judges as the biggest threat to Klitschko’s dominance, and “The Cobra” himself says he is as hungry as can be going into the biggest fight of his life – “ as hungry as a bear”, in fact.
You have been waiting patiently for your shot at Wladimir for some time. Now that the fight is here, do you feel it has come at just the right time for you?
Kubrat Pulev: Actually, it would have been perfect if the fight had come straight after my win over Alexander Ustinov in September 2012. Or maybe after I beat Tony Thompson in August 2013. I’ve felt as though I’m ready to win the heavyweight championship of the world for around two years now and now I am ready to do it.
You are physically very strong, but do you think you are tall enough for Klitschko?
This fight is not about height and reach as there is only around 1.5 inches between us [in height]. We are also very athletic fighters. This fight is dead even when it comes to physical strength. The deciding factors in the fight will be tactics and mindset.”
What about Wladimir’s left jab, how will you deal with it?
I counter your question with one of my own: How will he manage with my jab?
Do you plan on making the fight a physical affair, where you try and bully Klitschko?
I won’t answer any questions regarding my game-plan. All I will say is the fight will be all about tactics and mindset.
Do you feel you are at your very peak right now?
Every fighter will tell you before a world title fight that he is in the best shape of his life. So I think it should be up to the fans and the experts to make that judgement on fight night. I am feeling very good, but of course there is always room for improvement.”
Do you see any signs of slowing down or fading on Wladimir’s part?
Every great champion can get old overnight. Judging from Wladimir’s last fight, he is still on top of his game. As the challenger, I want him to be in the best possible shape because when I beat him, I want to get all the credit in the world and not thought to have cashed in on him having faded.
Who has given you your toughest fight thus far in your career?
The fight with Alexander Ustinov was physically very demanding, but my toughest fight was against Tony Thompson. He was definitely the most experienced fighter I have faced.
Do you think Wladimir has a weak chin, and can you exploit it?
He may not have the best chin, but he knows how to defend it. It is my job to find a way through his guard and to then test his chin.
What is the latest on the pre-fight drug testing you have asked for? Is Wladimir being unsportsmanlike if he doesn’t agree to the tests you’ve called for?
Wladimir is very clever. His company K2 won the purse bid for the fight therefore they can determine the supervision of our bout. It’s ludicrous when the DBD (German Boxing Association) states that they do not have the money for a better testing system, when the company, who won the fight purse bid by nearly $2 million, works very closely with them. That’s all I will say on the matter.
Finally, Kubrat, so many fighters have failed against Wladimir. Explain why it will be different in your case and why you are the man who will end Wladimir’s ten years of dominance?
I have not won anything [in my career] – no world title at pro level, no Olympic or world title at amateur level. Wladimir is the man to beat. I want to be the best. I want to bring the excitement that is currently lacking in the heavyweight division. I am as hungry as a bear and only winning the world title will satisfy my hunger.