Anthony Joshua removes doubt with Kubrat Pulev win, but is he ready for Tyson Fury? – ESPN

Anthony Joshua didn’t let his thoughts wander forward of his bout in opposition to Kubrat Pulev. He’d tripped over hurdles earlier than, failing to anchor himself within the current. But all week he refused to look past Pulev, and that unwavering focus led him to a ninth-spherical stoppage Saturday in entrance of 1,000 followers on the SSE Enviornment in London.

Joshua knocked Pulev down within the third spherical with a sweetly struck uppercut, but the Bulgarian’s robust chin saved him within the battle till the ninth. A flurry of uppercuts and a straight right hand eventually floored the spirited Pulev.

For Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs), this was as a lot an exorcism of that ugly Andy Ruiz Jr. spell because it was a reminder of Joshua’s ruthless capacity to cease a battle in its tracks. The uppercut was on level as Joshua lived as much as his promise of thrilling, but regardless of his laser-like focus, this felt like a starter with the primary course but to return.

Joshua did not even point out Tyson Fury’s title within the buildup to this battle, but the WBC belt holder and a possible epic matchup in 2021 between them hovered over this bout as an omnipresent distraction. It was solely after Pulev had been dispatched that Joshua ultimately talked about these two phrases of the person standing in the best way of a unification.

“Once I began this recreation in 2013 I have been chasing all of the belts, dealing with mandatories,” Joshua mentioned. “In fact, I need a problem, it isn’t in regards to the opponents, it is in regards to the legacy and the belts — whoever’s obtained the belt, I might like to compete with them. If that is Tyson Fury, let it’s Tyson Fury. It is no huge deal.”

Fury turned down Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn’s invite to be ringside on the SSE Enviornment, but he watched from a distance as Joshua defended his WBA, IBF and WBO titles and lived as much as his prefight promise of “destroying [Pulev’s] soul.”

It has been a very long time between fights — a 12 months and 5 days since Joshua stopped Ruiz within the Saudi Arabia rematch following his Madison Sq. Backyard nightmare. There have been considerations Joshua would present ring rust, but to fight that, he sparred all through Thursday night of battle week, alarming his coach Rob McCracken by not carrying headgear simply days out from the battle.

Pulev (28-2, 14 KOs), 39, was a reliable opponent and did land a couple of jabs on Joshua, but the British fighter was in management all through.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. was ringside, calling on Joshua to make use of the jab extra, but Joshua did this his approach and caught to the plan of dispatching Pulev and avoiding one other slip-up.

He ready for this battle like Wladimir Klitschko did for Pulev again in 2014. Again then Joshua was one in all Klitschko’s sparring companions. He spoke to the Ukrainian nice for an hour on the telephone Wednesday, wanting for inside info on his opponent and gleaning any information from Klitschko on how he inflicted the one different defeat in Pulev’s profession earlier than Saturday.

This efficiency was harking back to Klitschko, as have been his postfight phrases.

“I am the perfect model of me — I am not in a battle with anybody else, simply myself,” Joshua mentioned, avoiding any predictions of who he’d get down the road.

The subsequent step for Joshua might be necessary WBO challenger Oleksandr Usyk, but the boxing world desires to see the all-British superfight in opposition to Fury. The “Gypsy King” has taken a bit of Joshua’s highlight this 12 months because of his win over Deontay Wilder again in February, but Joshua won’t ever linger lengthy within the shadows.

Joshua will know deep down he’ll have to enhance additional if he is to defeat Fury. It felt as if he may have completed this battle in opposition to Pulev earlier, but let the Bulgarian get again in. In opposition to an opponent like Fury, he cannot afford to offer these alternatives, nor get drawn in by Fury’s distractions. Joshua has lengthy prided himself on avoiding the pantomime of boxing. He was involved that his win over Ruiz again in December wasn’t entertaining sufficient. After Saturday’s victory over Pulev, he instantly spoke of his hope that the 1,000 followers fortunate sufficient to safe one of many tickets had loved the present. But this was about profitable, little else.

It was identical to Joshua’s earlier battle within the U.Okay., which was again in 2018. It was in the identical nook of London, full with the flaming AJ initials and the White Stripes’ chest-thumping bass guitar riff to welcome Joshua into the world. Again then, his seventh-spherical stoppage of Alexander Povetkin was meant to be the final hurdle earlier than a unification battle. But Joshua’s completely laid out plan for world domination needed to wait as Ruiz shocked the Brit and the boxing world. This victory noticed him steer his present again on observe. This victory provides Joshua the platform to chase boxing immortality with Fury, who turned to Instagram postfight promising to knock Joshua out in three rounds, mendacity in wait.

Joshua has finished his bit — he constructed his preparations on “much less discuss, extra motion.” That is his message to the ready boxing world. Now the ability brokers must get the deal finished to offer boxing the battle it desires.

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