Key takeaways from Joshua vs. Pulev

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Danny Howard

December 14th, 2020

Anthony Joshua returned to the ring on Saturday night and delivered the goods with a ninth round TKO win over Kubrat Pulev. With Joshua successfully defending his title, it leaves him in prime position for perhaps the biggest fight in British boxing history.

Here’s what we learned from this past weekend's big bout.

Joshua could have finished off Pulev far earlier

Going into this fight, there were concerns about how Joshua would react just two fights removed from his shocking upset loss to Andy Ruiz. Joshua avenged that loss in his next fight, doing just enough to win against a horrifically out of shape Ruiz. This passive version of Joshua turned off a lot of viewers, and we saw shades of that on the weekend.

After a blistering third round where the fight should have been stopped, Joshua carried Pulev as long as he could take him before putting him down in the ninth. Yes, Joshua scored four knockdowns and defeated a respectable contender, but he’s not performing in the same vein that made him a superstar versus Wladimir Klitschko. Joshua didn’t need to take any chances, but he was well within his means to really put it on Pulev.

The animosity remains between Joshua and Tyson Fury

Joshua vs. Fury is easily the biggest fight to be made in the sport, and certainly would be the biggest fight in the history of British boxing, especially since these two fighters do not like each other. Post fight, Fury was dismissive of Joshua and made it clear he’d want Joshua right away. While Fury needs to take care of business against Deontay Wilder in a third fight, Joshua and Fury are on a collision course that will result in a huge fight.

When they fight, there’s little hope for Joshua. Fury’s mobility and mental toughness will be too much for him to overcome. We’ve seen Joshua fold under pressure, and that moment is still haunting him as we’ve seen in his subsequent fights. Joshua’s athleticism and skill will account for something, but Fury would open up as a favorite and would stay that way up until fight night.

Joshua’s next test will be a tough one

Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk is next for Joshua, and that will be a tough fight for him. This may be Usyk’s only chance at a heavyweight title, and he’s skilled enough to give Joshua all he can handle. While Usyk hasn’t looked spectacular in his two heavyweight fights, he’s going to do a lot better than an overmatched Pulev or a flabby Ruiz.

For that fight, Joshua will need to fight like a man with a size and power advantage. He won’t do himself any favors trying to out slick a technically superior fighter, and is going to need to bully him into submission. Joshua vs. Usyk is another excellent fight for the future, and a great preamble before the Fury showdown.