Anthony Joshua is back ! The ‘AJ’ pre-June 1st 2019 in Madison Square Garden is back. The devastating defeat to Mexican-American monolith Andy Ruiz is now an aberration consigned to history and wiped from the collective memory.
The emphatic points decision in Saudi Arabia almost a year to the day that returned the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight title belts to the amiable Londoner, has, by all accounts, returned us to the pre-New York AJ. Or has it ?
The evidence from the ‘AJ Channel’ on Sky television in the UK broadcast all week and, the advertising for pay per view, news updates, soundbites, social media blogs and reams written, all confirm to us that the AJ ‘roadshow’ is back.
What we saw in New York could also be a mirage or bad dream we are led to believe. Fact is, we don’t really know.
What we know is that Joshua had the fortitude and skills to comeback from a devastating defeat within six months, by executing a game plan against the same opponent who, literally ate himself out of the title.
The performance on that unseasonably rainy night in the Saudi desert last December was excellent, let’s not dispute that. But; we don’t really know if AJ is back until he defeats again a seasoned, skilled heavyweight with a genuine hunger for the title, rather than the contents of his refrigerator. Kubrat Pulev is that man.
The Bulgarian, at 39 is an ageing heavyweight. He is a slow heavyweight, but, one with an elite amateur record and the fundamental technical skills and battle hardness that comes with it. We saw a big man with a similar pedigree enter the Matchroom Fight Camp a few months ago and ‘ice’ mandatory WBC contender Dillian Whyte.
Kubrat Pulev is no Alexander Povektin, being significantly bigger and more ponderous but don’t say we haven’t been warned.
The Bulgar is a heavyweight with a solitary defeat on his 28-1 (14 KO) record, and that being six years ago to the last universally recognised heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko. A fighter admittedly Joshua spectacularly defeated in the twilight of the Ukranian’s career. That is the main comparison guide to this fight.
Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KO’s), at a younger 31 years, thankfully knows his boxing and the pedigree Pulev has. He knows he’s about to enter the ring with a big, slow heavyweight, but one that has waited three long years to feel the impact of his fist on AJ’s chops.
He knows that Pulev will only get this one last chance to be world champion and, whilst he doesn’t have a record of concussive power, after that night he endured in Madison Square Garden, Joshua knows that any heavyweight can flatten another.
If, Joshua can come through this first defence of his newly regained titles on Saturday night in the SSE Wembley Arena, London (which this correspondent thinks he will do) – then, we will really know that AJ is back.
We can then prepare for the year of hyperbole and public shenanigans to lead us to the ultimate ‘undisputed’ fight between AJ and Tyson ‘Gypsy King’ Fury. Hold your breath !