Kubrat Pulev has been earmarked as Anthony Joshua's next opponent.
Kubrat Pulev has been earmarked as Anthony Joshua's next opponent.

Sleazy Russian lands boxing bonanza

The race to be Anthony Joshua's next opponent is being led by Kubrat Pulev, promoter Eddie Hearn has revealed.

Joshua became a two-time world heavyweight champion by winning his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, but immediately has Oleksandr Usyk (WBO) and Pulev (IBF) circling as his two mandatory challengers.

Asked how soon a decision would be made about Joshua's next fight, Hearn told Sky Sports: "It's going to have to be quite quickly, because obviously now the vultures will be out, as I would be. I don't blame them.

"I've got to speak to the IBF and the WBO and see who goes first. I think it sounds like it's the IBF, but we'll wait for confirmation of that. AJ will want to maintain the belts and if that's the case, I think it will be Pulev, and then Usyk.

"I think April or May, that's a realistic kind of date (for Joshua's next fight)."

WBO president Paco Valcarcel stated immediately after Joshua regained the belts that he would be obliged to defend against Usyk within six months. But prior to Joshua's rematch with Ruiz Jr the IBF told Sky Sports they expected their mandatory challenger, Pulev, to receive his chance first.

"Ours has to come first," an IBF statement said. "The organisations have agreed that the IBF mandatory would be next."

Pulev's promoters Top Rank told Sky Sports: "Kubrat Pulev's next fight will be for the IBF world heavyweight title."

Bulgaria's Pulev, 38, has lost just one of 29 fights, against Wladimir Klitschko five years ago. He has beaten Derek Chisora and Hughie Fury since and was scheduled to fight Joshua in 2017 but withdrew injured.

But he is perhaps best known for planting a rogue kiss on Las Vegas-based reporter Jennifer Ravalo during an interview after a fight in March this year.

"Mid-interview he grabbed my face and kissed me. I was immediately shocked and embarrassed, and didn't know how to respond," Ravalo said.

"Next, I walked to the table to put my items in my backpack. He grabbed both of my buttocks and squeezed with both of his hands. Then he walked away without saying anything to me and laughed.

"It made me feel uncomfortable and frustrated that Kubrat Pulev would treat me in such an unprofessional manner. I did not encourage or consent to Mr Pulev grabbing my face, kissing me, or grabbing my backside.

"I was there at the event covering the boxing match as a professional member of the press. Kissing a woman on her lips without her consent and grabbing her is not acceptable."

Pulev was forced to apologise complete a sexual harassment prevention class before his boxing license was reinstated.


Meanwhile Usyk, who became undisputed cruiserweight champion last year and won his heavyweight debut in October, plans to fight Chisora if he misses out on immediately challenging Joshua.

Usyk had previously insisted that he wanted to challenge for heavyweight gold as soon as possible but, more recently, told Sky Sports that his priority was to avoid inactivity while he waited.

His manager Egis Klimas said: "If it is possible to fight in between and not to wait for another six months, I think Chisora will be a good fight for Usyk."

Joshua, soon after regaining the IBF, WBA and WBO belts in Saudi Arabia, indicated his willingness to take on Usyk. They both won gold medals at the London Olympics. "Let's rock and roll, mate. No problem," Joshua said about fighting Usyk.

- with Sky Sports

News Corp Australia

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