Kubrat Pulev, outside looking in, wants to show he belongs with top heavys
Kubrat Pulev feels left out of the heavyweight spotlight in recent months. With Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder garnering most, if not all, of the attention, Pulev believes he belongs among the elite of the division.
Pulev also wants to prove he can defeat any heavyweight today, even those three giants of the division.
The heavyweight contender will try to make that statement at the expense of Bogdan Dinu Saturday night at The Hangar in Costa Mesa, California. The 10-round bout will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
Pulev (26-1, 13 knockouts), who will be fighting for the first time as a pro in the United States, signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank in early December. The 37-year-old Pulev has been promoted by Epic Sports.
In his last bout on Oct. 27 in his hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria, Pulev won by unanimous decision over Hughie Fury, who is the younger cousin of Tyson Fury. Pulev has won his last six bouts since suffering his only defeat as a pro in November of 2014, when he was knocked out by former linear heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Pulev has moved up the rankings, becoming the IBF mandatory challenger to face Joshua. He is currently ranked No. 10 by The Ring.
Now living and residing in Las Vegas, Pulev believes he is a much-improved fighter than when he fought Klitschko.
“I was younger and was going through a lot of pressure leading up to the Klitschko fight,” Pulev told The Ring on Thursday. “Klitschko was much more experienced and it showed that night. I’m a much better fighter. I’m stronger and I have become a more well-rounded fighter. I believe I’m mentally and physically better. I can do everything.”
Pulev is also ranked No. 9 by the WBC and has recent victories over Dereck Chisora and Samuel Peter. Though he wants fights with all of the top fighters in his division, a deal with Fury could be easiest to make as both fighters now fight under the Top Rank/ESPN banner.
A fight against Joshua may be difficult to put together as Joshua fights on DAZN, unless the IBF mandates for that fight to be made through a purse bid.
“The heavyweight division is open. I can beat them all. I know there is difficulty with making fights because of the money and TV (networks) involved. I don’t have a problem with fighting any of the top fighters. I can win by outboxing them or knocking them out.”
Pulev will face Dinu (18-1, 14 KOs), who was knocked out by Jarrell Miller in his last bout on Nov. 17. Dinu will be fighting in the United States for the second time after having fought all of his bouts in Canada and his native Romania.
At Friday’s weigh-in, Pulev weighed 249.8 pounds while Dinu was 239.6 pounds.
“I believe I can win by knockout (on Saturday). I believe I can win impressively. I want to prove to the people that I’m a better fighter than when I fought Klitschko. I’m a better fighter and dangerous fighter.”
Pulev is favored to win Saturday, but is not overlooking Dinu. He believes 2019 will be a successful year.
“I’m focused on what I have to do. (Saturday) is a big fight and I hope to receive more opportunities later this year after defeating Dinu.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV.com since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and FightNights.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing