The biggest fights of Kubrat Pulev's career

Former European heavyweight, Kubrat Pulev, faces a tough test on December 12th, when he takes on the defending unified WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO world champion Anthony Joshua. Pulev has only once in his career fought for a unified world title, and that ended in defeat – the only loss of his professional career – to Wladimir Klitschko, in November 2014. He’s since been on an eight-bout winning streak, but appears to be a huge underdog in his upcoming encounter against AJ, according to the latest Joshua - Pulev odds anyway.

As he faces yet another huge test in the ring, with Joshua’s titles on the line, and the added pressure on the Brit to avoid another slip-up, just as he did last year when he relinquished his world titles – let’s take a look back at the three fights that have had a huge impact on Pulev’s professional career to date.

Vs Alexander Dimitrenko (May 2012)

Pulev’s first opportunity at a title came in May 2012, when he appeared on the undercard, and faced the former European heavyweight champion, Alexander Dimitrenko (32-1). The Ukrainian-born German boxer hadn’t fought for eight months and so, Pulev and his corner team fancied their chances – despite Dimitrenko’s record. He also had a height, reach and weight advantage over his opponent and started the bout well.

In round four, Pulev began to hold his own, counter-attacking and landing more powerful punches, but neither boxer managed to make the breakthrough. As the rounds progressed, Dimitrenko looked more and more tired, and eventually in the eleventh round, Pulev landed a jab which saw ‘Sascha’ fall to his knees. He stayed down and was counted out, giving Pulev a KO win and also the vacant European heavyweight title. He retained his IBF title too, and remains their mandatory challenger.

Vs Wladimir Klitschko (November 2014)

In May 2014, the IBF ordered Klitschko (62-3) and Pulev (20-0) to meet in the ring, and while the original bout, scheduled for September, was postponed, due to a bicep injury to Klitschko, the fight was rearranged for November – and staged at the O2 World Arena in Hamburg, Germany.

Klitschko’s power and experience overwhelmed Pulev, who was knocked down three times in the opening four rounds. Despite returning to his feet and delivering a spirited performance, the knockout blow came in round five – a powerful left hook to hand the Ukrainian the IBF, and The Ring heavyweight titles.

Following his first professional defeat, Pulev took 11 months out, before returning to winning ways and finding himself within touching distance of title fights again.

Vs Samuel Peter (December 2016)

Pulev had previously won back the European heavyweight title with a knockout win over Derek Chisora, but he vacated this prior to facing the former heavyweight world champion Samuel Peter (36-5). It was his first fight on home soil, with the Arena Armeec in Sofia, the chosen venue. In front of 15,000 fans, Pulev defeated Peter via a third-round retirement. The fight was stopped after Peter dislocated his right shoulder, after lining up a punch. But Pulev was more accurate with his punching, and had been ahead on all three judges’ scorecards when the bout was stopped, and so, rightfully won the vacant WBA Inter-Continental heavyweight title.

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Of course, the biggest test for Pulev is yet to come. With Joshua returning to fine form last year in his rematch to Andy Ruiz Jr, you can bet he won’t underestimate an opponent again – especially when so many titles are on the line. Both boxers have lost just once each, and it could well prove to be a tighter contest than fans anticipate.