Anthony Joshua retains heavyweight boxing titles with knockout of Kubrat Pulev
Anthony Joshua has defended his WBO, IBF, WBA and IBO heavyweight titles with a ninth-round knockout of Bulgarian mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in London.
In front of about 1,000 fans at Wembley Arena, a far smaller crowd than Joshua has become accustomed to in recent years, the Brit dominated his opponent, knocking him down twice in an explosive third round.
Joshua bided his time for long spells during the fight, but exploded in the ninth, knocking Pulev down after a series of powerful uppercuts, before ending the contest with a stunning overhand right.
"Less talk, more action," Joshua said after a fight that featured plenty of talking from both men.
Both fighters had to be separated after the bell on multiple occasions in a spiteful encounter, but 39-year-old Pulev's occasional spoiling tactics could not stop him from falling to a second career defeat by way of devastating knockout.Both sides of Joshua on display
After an explosive weigh-in, after which Joshua said he should have "clapped [Pulev] in his jaw" when the two came together, the first rounds were nothing more than a phoney war as both fighters spent the entire three minutes feigning rather than committing to full engagement.
However, even in those early stages Joshua was finding his range with some long, rangy jabs to the head and some limited combinations.
If the first two rounds demonstrated Joshua's restrained style that was such a feature of his rematch victory over Andy Ruiz Junior in Saudi Arabia, the third round saw the Brit at his explosive, dominant best.
Joshua threw off the shackles in the third, bludgeoning Pulev around the ring with three crushing rights and some vicious upper cuts to earn two knockdowns in the round.
The power of the champion's punches forced the Bulgarian to scamper to the protection of his corner — with Joshua in relentless pursuit.
The challenger took a standing eight-count after he turned his back, then was felled by a glorious, compact upper cut, a shot Joshua had success with throughout the fight when in close.
Joshua looked sprightly as he consolidated those knockdowns through the middle rounds, bouncing on his toes as he dancing in and out of range, reverting back to a more tentative style of picking off Pulev and winning rounds with scoring punches without committing fully to earning further knockdowns.
Both fighters were warned for holding the back of the head and for late shots, with Pulev particularly guilty of rabbit-punching Joshua in the clinches.
After breaking, Pulev and Joshua were constantly smiling and jawing at each other, but it took until the eighth before the referee deemed the infringements worthy of being addressed.
Pulev may have won the eighth, leading with the right and testing Joshua's defences for the first time in the contest.
However, after that small triumph, the Bulgarian was bought crashing back down to earth — twice — as Joshua ended the contest off the back of that jab and brilliant finish.