Anthony Joshua’s crucial world title clash against Kubrat Pulev has been rescheduled as Britain’s heavyweight star returns in a spectacular ending to the boxing year at The O2 on December 12, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
Joshua was due to defend his WBA ‘super’ IBF and WBO belts against IBF mandatory challenger Pulev in June, but will now receive his hotly anticipated first fight on UK soil in over two years.
The two-time world king regained his titles from Andy Ruiz Jr in a rematch victory in Saudi Arabia last December, and cannot afford another shock setback against the Bulgarian, with negotiations ongoing for an undisputed world title fight with WBC champion Tyson Fury in 2021.
“December 12 is the date and once again the heavyweight belts go up in the air and it is my sole focus to make sure that come December 13 they are in their rightful place in the UK,” said Joshua.
“The O2 is the original lion’s den, I have a lot of history with the arena, but without the fans something huge is missing. I am really hoping that, safety permitting, we might be able to bring some boxing fans in, but we will have to see. I respect every opponent and I respect Pulev. I wish him well during his preparation.”
An injury forced Pulev out of a scheduled fight against Joshua at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium in October 2017, but he is planning a stunning win in his second world title shot following a sole defeat to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014.
“For a small country of Bulgaria to stand up for the heavyweight titles is a great accomplishment,” said Pulev.
“This fight is for my late father and all Bulgarians around the world! I’m coming to London to seize the heavyweight championship of the world.”
Over a year after regaining his crown, Anthony Joshua takes on yet another dangerous opponent in mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.
Promoter Eddie Hearn said: “After a challenging year for everyone, to end with the unified world heavyweight championship is very special.
“Over a year after regaining his crown, Anthony Joshua takes on yet another dangerous opponent in mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. AJ’s resume is unrivalled, and this is the final hurdle until we challenge for the undisputed crown next year.
“Whilst it’s unusual to think of an AJ fight without tens of thousands of fans in attendance, we will be doing everything we can to lobby for the safe return of fans to this event. We have to move forward together. I know Team Pulev and Bob Arum will be doing all they can to become world champion on December 12, but AJ constantly evolves and improves and I expect a dominant performance and a spectacular KO to close out 2020.”
Bob Arum, Top Rank Chairman, said: “Eddie Hearn better watch out. Kubrat Pulev is going to destroy his plan for a Joshua-Tyson Fury unification fight.”
258 Managing Director Freddie Cunningham said: “Anthony again shows his willingness and desire to chase the undisputed title with another tough mandatory fight and despite the challenges of making a fight of this scale during these times it is important for AJ to keep momentum.
“It will be an exciting way to end the year and unique in every way. We will be working with Matchroom to build a card full of 258 fighters to give the fans entertainment throughout the undercard.”
🥳Happy birthday to the 2-time Unified World Heavyweight Champion @AnthonyfJoshua 👑🦁🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/8vMn8xCetl
Adam Smith, Head of Boxing Development at Sky Sports, said: “Anthony Joshua returns to the ring, a year after recapturing his world titles from Andy Ruiz Jr, and Britain’s unified world champion will be determined to reign supreme in a hotly-contested heavyweight division.
“Kubrat Pulev has proven pedigree, with just that sole defeat to Wladimir Klitschko, and he’ll be hoping to send more shockwaves through the sport with an upset victory, but I know that AJ has been training tirelessly, priming his explosive power for another night of fireworks.
“Tyson Fury will of course be watching – as an undisputed world title fight is within touching distance – and AJ cannot afford a slip-up in a blockbuster ending to the boxing year.”
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