By admission I always tend to root for an underdog, and Bulgarian heavyweight Kubrat Pulev is a vexing underdog. Pulev (24-1 13KOs) easily defeated faded titlist Samuel Peter December 3, for the WBA Intercontinental title, in what was an anti-climactic evening and a perplexing move for the top ten heavyweight contender.
The most confusing part about Kubrat Pulev is where to place him in regards to the rest of the division.
He’s in a strange echelon where many fans and critics think he is in fact a champion contender, but unsure where he could challenge his more elite competition.
Possessing quite possibly the best jab in the weight class, he utilized it to perfection against Peter (36-6 29KOs) setting his pace and distance before Peter threw wildly in the third round and hurt his right arm.
Kubrat Pulev was given the TKO at the start of the fourth round in his hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria; his homecoming debut fighting in Germany much of his career.
His only loss coming via fifth round knockout to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, as he challenged the Ukrainian for his IBF title.
The Bulgarian looked in the best shape of his career, moving effectively, with a good defense and footwork, but make no mistake, this was the very definition of a “tune-up” fight.
The bout was another example of a stay busy contest that boxing fans have grown accustomed to, and are very weary of these days.
Peter, while making a good effort in the ring was completely trashed in terms of physique and conditioning. Slow and groggy, Kubrat Pulev still had lots of trouble connecting on anything with his right hand.
There was no way Peter would’ve made it much farther, injury or not, he looked very overwhelmed by an opponent who was hammering him with jabs alone.
By the third round’s conclusion Pulev was effortlessly attacking with the left jab, deeming all that was necessary to vanquish an opponent who couldn’t escape it.
His new trainer Ulli Wegner has done a great deal in refining his form, but this is where the critiques come in.
Lacking power despite great technique is widely considered to be Kubrat Pulev’s greatest weakness.
His knockout rate is just about half, nothing to brag about considering the banner division’s champions Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua are each boasting rates above 95% with Joshua stopping every opponent he’s faced.
Many of Kubrat Pulev fans and critics alike wonder how he would fare against such devastating combatants.
Wilder and Joshua have their fair share of detractors in terms of ability and lack of quality opponents. Notwithstanding, both are Olympic medalists who get better with every round, and still find the way to smash nearly every foe they face.
That’s not considering the likes of Luis Ortiz, Bryant Jennings, David Haye or Alexander Povetkin.
Perhaps the return of lineal champion Tyson Fury, or a rematch with Klitschko, should the former champion regain his titles and Pulev becoming mandatory challenger. How does he fare with any of these fighters?
Pulev was reportedly in negotiations to face Joshua (17-0 17KOs) before the 2012 British Olympic gold medalist signed up to face Mexican-American Eric Molina in a voluntary defense this Saturday, December 10th instead.
Pulev was number two in the IBF’s ranking behind undefeated New Zealander Joseph Parker, with Parker looking for WBO gold against Andy Ruiz also on December 10th.
Now with his tune up out of the way and looming challenger Pole Mariusz Wach coming for Pulev’s European championship belt, one could only hope these puzzling fights are coming to a finale.
Kubrat Pulev doesn’t have much sand in the hourglass left in his professional career at age 35 and against opponents who cannot go the distance, the exercise is futile.
Wegner looks like he’s pushing the fighter in the right direction, and the boxing world wants to see what he can do, and to see if he can be Bulgaria’s first world heavyweight champion.