By Eric Thomas: Challenger Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs) believes he and IBF/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) both need to keep improving during tier career as they head into their fight later this month on October 28 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
Pulev has studied Joshua’s past fights and he’s noted the problems he’s had. Pulev is also critical of himself from the mistakes he made his 5th round knockout loss to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014. In that fight, Pulev repeatedly walked into left hooks from Wladimir in the early going and was knocked down over and over again.
Pulev did a lot better when he fought on the outside and used his jab to connect, but he got greedy. Pulev tried to go on the attack too many times to land his right hand, and he discovered the hard way that he couldn’t do that against Klitschko without getting clipped by his left hooks.
Joshua’s love for lifting weights may hurt him at some point soon. When Joshua gets in there with a heavyweight that is mobile, powerful and has a great engine, he’s going to struggle. We saw how Joshua struggled with the superior aerobic conditioning and speed from Wladimir. The two of them were wide apart in conditioning. Joshua was like a body builder with his conditioning.
Wladimir was clearly a true boxer, who could fight hard for 3 minutes of each round without getting exhausted. The question is will Joshua can see the flaws in his fight with Wladimir to make improvements? In looking at recent photos of Joshua, he still looks far too muscular to fight hard for a full 3 minutes without gassing out. It’s possible that Joshua will never have good stamina. If that’s the case then he’ll eventually lose if he continues to be matched tough in the future.
“I see what he does well and see what he does badly – I study him,” said Pulev to skysports.com about Joshua. “Everyone must learn more, whether it’s myself, ‘AJ’ or anyone else. When one man says that he knows everything, he is lying.”
Joshua made a lot of mistakes in his fight with Wladimir. There was a load of mistakes that the 27-year-old Joshua made. The reason why Joshua won the fight was Wladimir made the biggest mistake of all by not going for a knockout in rounds 6 to 10 when he had Joshua hurt and exhausted from the pace of the fight. Wladimir let Joshua off the hook.
Here are Joshua’s mistakes for the Klitschko fight:
• Coming in too heavy for the fight. Joshua weighed 250 pounds, and he was far too bulky to move well. Joshua looked like he’d trained in a body building gym than he had for a boxing fight. Joshua looked impressive with his physique, but he forgot that that he was competing in a sporting event, not a body building contest. Joshua was probably 15 lbs. too heavy. He would have been better off weighing 235 lbs. at the most for the fight.
• Not cutting off the ring quickly enough
• Focusing too much on throwing power shots
• Forgetting to use his jab
• Taking too many risks attacking Wladimir. Joshua gave Wladimir his best chance of winning by bull rushing him like he’d done with his previous 18 opponents in his career. Joshua used the same game plan against Joshua as he had against weaker opponents like Charles Martin, and it almost cost him the fight.
Joshua’s success could ultimately lead to his downfall. It might not happen in the Pulev fight, because this guy is pretty old and limited in the power department. But when Joshua starts facing the guys that are both big and powerful like Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker, he could run into some trouble in those fights if he thinks he can continue to use his same fighting approach as he has since his amateur days. Joshua attacks all his opponents in the same way. He’s always bull rushing them, and rarely boxing.
Sooner or later, Joshua is going to need up with someone that can land something big while he’s coming forward and hurt him. Unlike Wladimir, most heavyweights try to finish you off when they get their opponents hurt. If Joshua gets hurt by Pulev, Wilder or whoever else that he faces in the future, they’re not going to try and box him. They’re going to take advantage of the situation by going for the knockout. It’s only a matter of time before Joshua gets beaten. The heavyweight division is too small as far as good fighters are for Joshua to be able to assemble a 50-0 record like Floyd Mayweather Jr. could do in his own career.
Mayweather put that record together with a lot of careful match-making in picking to fight certain guys during periods of their careers where they were either too young or too old to beat him. Mayweather also never fought some of the guys that were a threat to beating him like Paul Williams years ago, Antonio Margarito, Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr., Kostya Tszyu, the Charlo brothers, Demetrius Andrade, Erislandy Lara and Gennady Golovkin. Joshua can’t do what Mayweather did in avoiding the dangerous guys because the heavyweight division is too far apart from the other divisions for him to pick out other opponents to fight instead of the difficult guys from his own division. Mayweather was able to vulnerable guys from other weight classes, which allowed him to steer around fighters that might have beaten him.