Anthony Joshua is set to return to the ring this Saturday in London, defending his WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titles against IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.
Now 31, Joshua (23-1, 21 KO) has been one of boxing’s biggest starts pretty much immediately since turning pro in 2013, coming off of an Olympic gold medal at London 2012. He didn’t face the top names right off, of course, but he was quickly a legitimate drawing card, and has been the face of a very strong era in British boxing history.The 39-year-old Pulev (28-1, 14 KO) will be getting his second world title shot, having fallen well short back in 2014 against Wladimir Klitschko, where the Bulgarian was dropped repeatedly and stopped in the fifth round, but if nothing else, you can say Pulev really went for it, which not all (or many) Klitschko opponents during Wladimir’s long title reign.
Joshua will be the favored man on Saturday, he’s got home field at The SSE Arena, Wembley, and he’ll even get the luxury of having 1,000 fans in attendance, though they may be more well-to-do high society types than rowdy boxing fans. Let’s take a look back at some of his best performances and biggest wins as a pro.
Joshua won his first world title back in 2016, when he blasted unbeaten American Charles Martin out in the second round to take the IBF strap. The belt took an odd route to make it over Joshua’s shoulder, as Tyson Fury had won the belt (along with the WBA and WBO) in Nov. 2015 from Wladimir Klitschko.
But with Fury owing Klitschko a contractually obligated rematch, the IBF mandatory that was due couldn’t be fulfilled, and Fury was stripped pretty quickly, leading to a Jan. 2016 fight between Martin and Vyacheslav Glazkov for the vacant title, which Martin won on a fluke, really, when Glazkov shredded his knee in the third round. Fury never did fight Klitschko, the other two belts were given up in time, Glazkov never fought again, and Joshua trounced Martin, who now in 2020 is back in the IBF mix on a three-fight win streak at age 34.
Prior to his world title win over “Prince” Charles, AJ had a big domestic grudge match with Dillian Whyte in Dec. 2015. Joshua was, of course, the prized prospect of British boxing overall, and certainly in the heavyweight division, while Whyte had been beating up basically the same level of opposition but with nowhere near the hype.
It was a tense and chippy fight that nearly broke out into chaos at the end of the first round, when Joshua landed a late shot and Whyte responded by throwing hands. On a relative scale, Whyte more or less lived up to his trash talk, actually fighting back against Joshua, having little moments of success, but eventually getting stopped in the seventh round. Joshua had never gone past the third round in any pro fight, and Whyte served some notice that he might be someone to watch, even in defeat. But it was AJ marching on to the world title opportunity, which he made count.