Anthony Joshua started the second defence of his reign as world heavyweight champion with an explosive ninth-round stoppage of Kubrat Pulev at Wembley’s SSE Arena.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at five things we learned on Saturday night.
It is well documented that Anthony Joshua used a back-foot game plan to win back his belts with a points victory over Andy Ruiz Jr last December, but this was a return to the old AJ. Trainer Rob McCracken had insisted in the build-up his fighter would still be disciplined, which he was and yet the 31-year-old married it with some destructive shots, especially the uppercut to finish the Bulgarian well inside the distance and secure a 22nd knockout.
The Sofia native had only been stopped once, by Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, and you could see why as time and time again he swallowed various brutal Joshua punches. Even though he smiled after one knock down, it was clear pain was being inflicted on him. Pulev, to his credit, showed he has one of the strongest chins in the heavyweight division by getting up off the deck on three occasions before his race was eventually run late in the ninth.
Tyson Fury had been the elephant in Matchroom’s bio-secure bubble this week and now the work can start over a unification fight between Britain’s two heavyweight champions. This bout was one of the few hurdles to be cleared and with one less in the way, negotiations can get under way and both Eddie Hearn and Bob Arum have stated they will start on Monday to ensure a fight for the ages is finalised.
We donât have to prove anything to no one but ourselves. pic.twitter.com/CDbo5h7ydj— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) December 12, 2020
Pulev had done plenty of talking in the days leading up to Saturday’s contest and Joshua warned him not to speak so much. He followed it up with a brutal display, knocking the 39-year-old down three times before a bruising combination brought an early end. After the victory, Fury took to social media and insisted he would knock out Joshua in three rounds, but the Watford-born boxer refused to be drawn into an early war of words with his rival during his limited post-fight interviews. It may be a sign of things to come from Joshua.
Although only 1,000 spectators were inside Wembley’s SSE Arena, it made a big difference to have fans at a UK boxing event for the first time in nine months. Sweet Caroline was belted out like it was a packed Wembley and the atmosphere was bubbling even before the main event. Following months of bouts behind closed doors, to have heckling and support from the stands was a welcome relief and the hope will be this is the start of a return to full capacity in 2021.