Kubrat Pulev looks as lean and confident as he is relaxed and engaging inside the world heavyweight championship bubble which insulates him and Anthony Joshua until the title fight on Saturday night in Wembley. “I feel a little lighter and at my best like this,” the Bulgarian challenger said on Wednesday. “A boxer must have power and speed and right now I feel very dangerous.”
Joshua is expected to retain his IBF, WBA and WBO titles but Pulev grinned and emitted a low growl when asked to predict the outcome. “It means we are going to win,” he said of the growl. “It will not be an easy fight but we will win it. He is a very good fighter, that I respect, but I will show I am the better boxer. Two good fighters means it is a dangerous fight, and I like that.”
Pulev is an obscure figure outside boxing but, in Bulgaria, he remains wildly popular. Almost two million people in his home country watched him lose his only previous world title bout, against Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, and Pulev stresses that becoming the first Bulgarian to win the world heavyweight championship would carry profound meaning. “For me this is much more important than becoming a champion for the money. This means everything if I achieve it. I don’t think it is my last chance but it is an important moment. The one time I lost [to Klitschko] I was too young, too green.
“Before Klitschko I was relaxed but there were many problems. My promoters were talking about tickets and money. They were mistakes because I was not only thinking about training and the strategy for the fight. It just did not work. This week has been amazing because we are in the bubble. People want to see me but I tell them I am in the bubble.”
Pulev has an impressive 28-1 record but he is 39. However, he insists that “I can do 12 rounds. I could do 20 rounds. I have trained in our mountains that are 2,300m above sea level.”
While the bubble hums with speculation that Joshua’s two-fight deal with Tyson Fury, the WBC champion, will be announced soon, Pulev said he was not offended. “I like that people are talking more about Joshua v Fury than Joshua v Pulev. It is not insulting to me. Everybody might think heavyweight boxers are dumb but we are smart people. I am happy because while he is thinking about fighting somebody else, he is underestimating me and the current situation.”
If Pulev can fight with the same serenity and conviction with which he talks, and use his effective jab and obvious strength to test Joshua, we could have a real battle inside the bubble.