Anthony Joshua will defend his heavyweight titles in June against the respected Kubrat Pulev. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse takes a look at the early betting...
"Pulev will be eager to remain patient against AJ and drag him into the second half of the contest, testing his fitness to breaking point."
Date has been set
World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua is confirmed to face Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev in his first fight in the UK since July 2018. Joshua v Pulev will take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 20 June 2020 with the Brit's WBA, IBF, WBO and IBF titles on the line, shown live on Sky Sports Box Office.
The early betting on the Betfair Sportsbook suggests it should be a comfortable night's work for Joshua, but followers know nothing can be taken for granted in heavyweight boxing.
The champion was priced like losing wasn't an option when meeting Andy Ruiz Jr in New York last summer. He was stopped inside seven rounds that night. Will Pulev do something similar to dethrone AJ and blow the division wide open?
Result more important than performance
Many fight fans had hoped to see Joshua face new champion Tyson Fury in a unification fight this year but that now looks unlikely. The Gypsy King has signed to complete the trilogy with Deontay Wilder, forcing AJ to keep busy by defending against Pulev. If both Joshua and Fury come through unscathed, a match-up would be possible in December or early next year.
To have any chance of giving fans the all-British super fight they crave, Fury must see off The Bronze Bomber and Joshua must get the job done when Pulev comes to London. The performance isn't as important as the result for Anthony, it's a win at all costs deal following the disaster of losing to Ruiz and the revenge victory in Saudi Arabia that didn't exactly set pulses racing.
Pulev will aim to test AJ's fitness
Joshua prepares for his return home with a professional record reading 23 wins against one defeat and no draws. He has scored 21 of his victories by knockout, resulting in an 88% KO average. The spare on his card was that inside the distance loss to Ruiz at Madison Square Garden on his American debut. AJ was sent to the canvas twice in the third round and twice again in round seven before referee Michael Griffin waved the fight off. That defeat was avenged in Saudi Arabia in December thanks to a wide points decision.
Pulev has also suffered defeat only once during his professional career. The 38-year-old from Sofia has a CV detailing 28 wins against a TKO loss to Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014. The challenger has scored 14 knockout wins, producing a 48% KO average. Since losing to Klitschko, The Cobra has won eight times, including an eye-catching points cheer vs Hughie Fury in 2018. A fit, hard-working and determined opponent, Pulev will be eager to remain patient against AJ and drag him into the second half of the contest, testing his fitness to breaking point.
KO win expected
Speaking to the world's sporting press this week, promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing explained how excited he was to be bringing Joshua home where he'll fight at a new arena packed with 70,000 fans creating a special atmosphere. Hearn expected a strong challenge for an opponent unbeaten in six years who is confident of upsetting the locals.
Betting wise, this looks an open and shut case of how Joshua beats Pulev, rather than if. The Englishman is 1/9 jolly in the early fight winner betting against the 11/2 for Kubrat and 33/1 the draw. A 22nd career KO/TKO is 4/9 with a second points victory on the bounce offered at 3/1.