Anthony Joshua vs. Kubrat Pulev fight start time: TV channel, how to watch, live stream, price
Joshua will look to inch one step closer to a heavyweight unification bout with Tyson Fury when he faces Pulev in London
Anthony Joshua will return to the ring on Saturday after avenging his loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. last December while regaining his heavyweight titles to face the challenge of Kubrat Pulev. Joshua emerging victorious would move him one step closer to a mega-fight with WBC champion Tyson Fury to unify all four recognized world championships.
Pulev is getting what is likely his final shot to become world champion. In 2014, he suffered a knockout loss against Wladimir Klitschko in a bout for the IBF title. He has since won eight consecutive fights to earn his latest title shot. At 39 years old, the clock is ticking on Pulev, but the odds remain heavily in favor of Joshua retaining his titles.
There's a lot of action expected on Saturday in London. Be sure you're following all of CBS Sports' coverage of the event, including how you can watch and follow the action live below.
Joshua vs. Pulev card, odds
Anthony Joshua (c) -1000 vs. Kubrat Pulev +650, IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight championship
Lawrence Okolie vs. Nikodem Jezewski, cruiserweights
Hughie Fury -650 vs. Mariusz Wach +475, heavyweights
Martin Bakole -330 vs. Sergey Kuzmin +260, heavyweights
Kieron Conway vs. Macaulay McGowan, super welterweight
Florian Marku vs. Jamie Stewart, welterweights
Qais Ashfaq vs. Ashley Lane, women's super bantamweights
How to watch Joshua vs. Pulev
Date: Dec. 12 | Start Time: 2 p.m. ET
Location: SSE Arena -- London, England
TV Chanel/Stream: DAZN (sign up today)
Anthony Joshua vs. Kubrat Pulev fight predictions, odds, undercard, expert picks, date
The unified heavyweight champion puts his trio of titles on the line in England on Saturday
Following what was a tumultuous 2019 that witnessed him lose his trio of heavyweight titles via upset knockout only to be criticized for how safe he fought in winning them back, Anthony Joshua has learned to let the criticism of others slide off of him.
Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) believes he's a better person for having experienced his two-fight series with Andy Ruiz Jr. and plans to show that on Saturday when he faces mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) in front of a quarantined attendance of 1,000 fans inside London's Wembley Arena (DAZN, 2 p.m. ET).
"The pressure I went through last year was tough but it made me stronger mentally with thicker skin," Joshua said during Thursday's final press conference. "I have always been tough and wanted to fight the best, that's not the issue. What have I to lose? I only have to gain."
Despite Pulev's lack of a crossover name, Joshua has plenty of respect for the danger that the native of Bulgaria brings.
The 39-year-old Pulev attacked former unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko with reckless endangerment during his lone pro defeat in 2014 before Klitschko delivered a knockout blow. It was a fight in which Joshua, then just a handful of fights into his pro career, served as one of Klitschko's chief sparring partners in training camp.
Joshua must get through test before Fury
What's on the line in heavyweight title clash
"I have known Kubrat Pulev for many years and I understand the tactics of fighting him," Joshua said. "I prepare like I am a 15-round fighter and I am ready to go until the final bell."
Joshua, 31, said there will be no problem getting up for this mandatory fight because of the fact that he respects Pulev and the eight-fight win streak he uncorked in the aftermath of the Klitschko fight. This weekend's challenge is one that was originally scheduled to happen in late 2017 until a shoulder injury saw Pulev withdraw and Carlos Takam take his place at the last minute en route to a stoppage defeat.
"I always believed this fight would come one day," Pulev said. "We didn't fight in 2017 but I am here right now and ready. I am fit and I think on Saturday night I will take the win.
"In 2017 I was younger but also I had this problem from sparring and couldn't fight because I couldn't train. Now, I am healthy. I am not 22 and I don't have time, of course, but I am ready. Of course I respect Anthony because he was an Olympic and world champion. He's a good fighter but I'm ready. I have done everything to become champion."
Given Pulev's aggressive style, there has been some question as to whether Joshua's knockout loss to Ruiz in June 2019 changed him as a fighter because of how passively he chose to box from the outside in claiming a unanimous decision in their rematch last December.
Joshua received very little credit for the win, largely because Ruiz entered the fight in such poor shape physically after enjoying his short reign as champion and coming in grossly overweight.
"I want to promote boxing, I don't want the credit. I don't yearn for it," Joshua said. "I'm very motivated and hungry, that's why I put myself at the forefront of opportunity .The world is my oyster but at the end of the day, I can't expect everyone to respect me. That's for myself and why I work so hard for my family.
"I have been fighting at a top level ever since I walked into the gym after a three-year amateur career. I have been punched by the strongest people many times and it still hasn't changed me. I have a lot of character. Every fight I train hard but it's the character that separates me. I'm going to go into the fight and I'm definitely going to get hit but so is he and it's the last man standing."
Fight card, odds
Anthony Joshua (c) -1000 vs. Kubrat Pulev +650, unified heavyweight titles
Lawrence Okolie vs. Nikodem Jezewski, WBO international cruiserweight title
Hughie Fury -650 vs. Mariusz Wach +475, heavyweights
Martin Bakole -330 vs. Sergey Kuzmin +260, WBC international heavyweight title
Although Pulev has scored decision wins by outboxing the likes of Tony Thompson, Dereck Chisora and Hughie Fury throughout his career, his resume is solid but far from overwhelmingly spectacular. Because of that, his performance in the Klitschko loss could be a good indicator as to what this fight looks like.
Pulev might be six years older than the night he attempted to jump Klitschko off the opening bell and constantly look to provide pressure, but it's a similar plan of attack that might be his best option given Joshua's vulnerable chin and the fact that AJ will be the taller and longer fighter with advantages in speed and technique.
The bad news in this case for Pulev is that the more he presses Joshua in hopes of a knockout, the more he creates a scenario in which a similar knockout defeat feels inevitable. A big reason for that is how Joshua has proven to be an economical and dangerous finisher with both hands when he has has his opponent hurt.
Should Joshua prove to be gun shy or cautious, Pulev is big and powerful enough to be a problem and, make no mistake, is fully equipped to pull off an upset. But that remains a big if.
Yes, Joshua played it safe in the Ruiz rematch but a lot of that had to do with his opponent's deceptively quick hands and underrated technique. AJ is simply better than Pulev in just about every category and as long as he fights confidently enough to get his opponent out of there once Pulev steps on the gas pedal, the reality is he likely will.
Pick: Joshua via KO5
What are the three best bets you can make on Joshua vs. Pulev? Visit SportsLine now to see Peter Kahn's picks, all from the fight game manager who's an astounding 27-2 on boxing picks since the sport returned.
Anthony Joshua must pass a difficult test in Kubrat Pulev before possibly facing Tyson Fury in 2021
Heavyweight boxing is primed for a huge year in 2021 as long as things go according to plan
With the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder rivalry seemingly behind us for the time being, the fight to make in heavyweight boxing -- and likely the biggest the sport could produce -- is an undisputed championship bout between Fury and Anthony Joshua for all four recognized titles.
Promoters and fans alike remain hopeful it's a unification matchup that can be made in 2021 provided both fighters can get through mandatory title defenses first unscathed. Step one of that process begins on Saturday for Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) as the WBA, WBO and IBF champion faces Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) in front of a quarantine friendly 1,000 fans inside London's Wembley Arena.
The 12-month layoff has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the 31-year-old Joshua following what was a tumultuous 2019 to say the least. Not only did he lose his U.S. debut via stunning knockout to Andy Ruiz Jr., the native of England was heavily criticized for how safely he outpointed Ruiz in their September rematch in Saudi Arabia.
"After that loss, I realized what industry I'm in and it's a non-forgiving industry," Joshua told Yahoo Sports last week. "I had to box and out maneuver him. I didn't want to make any mistakes so I decided to box on the back foot.
"Having this fight pushed back 12 months, it allowed me to not work to a certain opponent or deadline but just to work to prove myself mentally, tactically and physically. I have had a nice period where I dedicated myself to the gym and the gym has dedicated itself to me. I have not been worried about anyone else."
Depending upon any exemptions given by the sanctioning bodies, Joshua could end up needing to defeat both Pulev and former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk in separate mandatories before a Fury fight could be made. Fury, meanwhile, is due a mandatory for his WBC title that should come from the winner of the delayed Alexander Povetkin-Dillian Whyte rematch.
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Wilder, whom Fury stopped in their February rematch, missed his window to activate a mandatory rematch clause during the quarantine, according to Fury co-promoter Bob Arum. Wilder has refuted the notion and said publicly he plans to take legal action to force a trilogy bout.
While both Joshua and Fury appear to be on the same wavelength in wanting this superfight, the 39-year-old Pulev is rightfully having none of it.
"I don't believe this fight is going to happen because I win Saturday night," Pulev said during a recent interview with Joshua promoter Matchroom Sport. "I think the world needs a new world champion like me. I think after this fight, I'm going to fight with Tyson Fury. It's going to be good.
"We see a lot of mistakes from Anthony, lot of bad sides. I think these mistakes have stayed and I will take it and be good."
Joshua referred to the Pulev fight as a potential "banana skin" in that it's a fight he's expected to win that would lead him to much bigger things. With that brings extra pressure, which he dealt poorly with int he Ruiz fight.