Can Kubrat Pulev Test Boxing’s Poster Boy Anthony Joshua?

Anthony Joshua’s long-awaited return, after his pulsating contest with Wladimir Klitschko, has finally been confirmed for the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. On October 28, Britain’s unified WBA and IBF World Champion will take on his mandatory challenger, Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev, whose only loss came at the hands of Klitschko.

However, at 36 years of age and boasting an unceremonious knockout defeat, does the aged challenger truly have anything to test the formidable Joshua?

Joshua is the new prince of boxing and Britain’s undefeated champion who has gloriously bludgeoned his way to a record of 19 wins and 19 knockouts. His appeal is large enough to fill the 80,000 seater stadium alone, much to the joy of his promoter, Eddie Hearn, who will be will be delirious with the possibility of another cash rich contest, fuelled by his ‘golden goose’, after Mayweather-McGregor already recently smashed British pay-per-view records.

However, his challenger, unknown to the majority, will do little to drum up any further interest in the bout. The Bulgarian has rigorously maintained his position as mandatory challenger for Joshua’s IBF world title for a lengthy period now. It’s guaranteed him the money fight, which may in fact see him retire in the near future, after an amateur and professional career that has already lasted over 15 years. However, in Britain, Pulev will do little to conjure any added starlight and glamour, such as the sport thrives upon, despite the impending barrage of promotion aimed to persuade otherwise.

The gruff 36-year-old, speaks little English and unlike Joshua, has the face to match his come forward style. Once boasting notable prowess and a distinguished jab, that still to this day is recognised as one of the greatest in the sport, Pulev was widely touted to be the man to threaten the Klitschkos enduring reign.

However, when that challenge came, Pulev suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of a prime Wladimir Klitschko, being knocked down four times, in a contest that lasted only 5 rounds. He’s yet to step back up to the elite level since that embarrassing defeat. He won a split decision victory in 2016 over Britain’s own, Derek Chisora, a stalwart of British heavyweight boxing, but without disrespect, Joshua would’ve undoubtedly dealt with him in demonic fashion.

When Joshua and Pulev enter the ring, Joshua will command the squared circle with a significant advantage in almost every department; height, weight, age, speed, reach and the list goes on. To say the writing is already on the wall is somewhat of an understatement and to assume that that the bookmakers are giving Pulev any sort of a chance would still be generous.

Joshua’s sheer obliterative power will see him readily ‘walk through’ his opponent. He will take a couple of rounds to look at Pulev, who he’ll respect as the skilled and renowned fighter he once was, but when he comes inside the Bulgarian’s jab, the rest will be a mere formality. Joshua is in his fully-fledged prime and with blockbuster bouts against the likes of American WBC Champion, Deontay Wilder, and a rematch with his nemesis, Dillian Whyte, already in the pipeline, the team behind him will already have one eye on the future.

It can be no criticism of Joshua for taking up the challenge but after such a tremendously explosive contest with Klitschko, fans will once again be craving the heavyweight fireworks that the fight could come dangerously close to not delivering. However, he can only beat the man in front of him and failing to face Pulev would have seen him stripped of his IBF world title.

There’s no phrase Eddie Hearn loves more than a ‘stacked card’ and this promotion will surely need to bear some exciting domestic 50/50 match ups and world title contests alike, to live up to its box office price.

The real question is can anybody in the division challenge Britain’s flag-bearer? He’s already beaten the long-reigning king in Klitschko and perhaps his only other worthy contemporary, the perennially controversial, Tyson Fury, has languished on the sidelines, struggling with both personal and professional issues. Although the division boasts a number of potential challengers to the throne, there isn’t necessarily another gleaming standout.

Undefeated WBC World Champion, Deontay Wilder, undoubtedly poses a threat, but even AJ’s harshest critics would be hard pushed not to see him as the favourite entering that fight. However, it’s boxing and in the heavyweight division, one punch can change history, but for the foreseeable future, Joshua’s reign at the top has the potential to be one that aligns him with some of the heavyweight greats.