World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua makes his long-awaited UK return on Saturday night. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse explains why he must tread carefully...
"Approaching 40 and as a man who will come forward, Pulev looks made for Joshua"
Anthony Joshua takes on Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena on Saturday evening as the local faces the latest defence of his heavyweight world titles. AJ makes a welcome return with his last UK fight in summer 2018.
AJ stopped hard-hitting Alexander Povetkin that night at Wembley Stadium in front of his adoring fans and the champion is a strong favourite to do something similar here. Have your say on the fight winner at Betfair or play one of the many specials, including winning round and method of victory. Markets will be available pre-fight and in-play.
Challenge must have AJ's full attention
Joshua enters fight number 25 of his career aiming to end the year on a high. The 31-year-old Watford man has won 23 bouts, losing just one. The spare came in the form of a shock upset loss in America to little-known Andy Ruiz Jr. Anthony entered the ring at Madison Square Garden, New York priced like losing wasn't an option but was taken out by a determined Ruiz in round seven having been knocked down twice before.
That result shook world boxing, but Joshua was able to get his revenge and did it quicker than many expected. AJ grabbed back his titles with a convincing points win over Ruiz in Saudi Arabia in the rematch, winning by eight rounds on two scorecards and 10 on the other. The coronavirus enforced lockdown meant that win over Ruiz at the Diriyah Arena a year ago was the champ's last outing.
Fans want to see Joshua take on WBC champion Tyson Fury in an all-British unification fight, but AJ knows all too well the dangers of looking past an opponent. He was made to pay a hefty price by Ruiz so must be switched on against Pulev. Joshua is 1.171/6 on the Betfair Exchange to win this fight with the KO/TKO 1.4840/85. A second points verdict on the bounce is 54/1.
Pulev has just one loss on his record
Pulev may enter fight night as a massive betting underdog and a man written off by most boxing experts but that will suit the challenger nicely. Pulev is here on merit and the experienced Bulgarian is ranked highly in all respected heavyweight lists. He has won 28 of his 29 professional bouts, scoring 14 knockouts since debuting back in 2009 with a second-round stoppage.
The Cobra has suffered just one defeat and that blot on his copybook is easy to forgive as it was inflicted by Wladimir Klitschko in Germany more than six years ago. Dr Steelhammer finished things in the fifth round but Pulev proved to be a worthy opponent and won many new fans that night. Since losing to Klitschko we've seen Kubrat score eight wins including a points verdict over Hughie Fury in the summer of 2018.
Pulev was last seen in action beating American Rydell Booker over 10 rounds but that was November 2019. An extended absence from the ring and the fact he's now 39 years old means the majority of bettors are against him. Pulev trades at 7.413/2 on the exchange. A points win is 2322/1 with the KO/TKO yours at 9.89/1.
Cobra remains dangerous
Pulev is a danger here and if AJ takes him lightly, he'll lose his belts. It's strange to see the points win is much shorter than the KO for Pulev. The Cobra has stopped only one man in four fights, a run stretching back to April 2017. The Bulgarian is a great boxer with an accurate jab. With question marks still hanging over the champion's effectiveness over the distance, there may be value there.
I don't expect the belts to change hands, however. Joshua knows all too well what's at stake and he has come to terms with his weaknesses having been blown away by Ruiz. Approaching 40 and as a man who will come forward, Pulev looks made for Joshua who will want to get back to business with an explosive knockout win.