- •Reports on boxing for ESPN.co.uk, as well as several national newspapers
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Reigning IBF, WBO and WBA heavyweight world titlist Anthony Joshua defends his belts against Kubrat Pulev on Saturday in front of about 1,000 fans at The SSE Arena in London. Joshua-Pulev originally was planned for June, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was rescheduled with the hopes of having fans in attendance.
Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) defeated Andy Ruiz Jr. by unanimous decision in a rematch on Dec. 7, 2019, to regain the three titles. Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) hasn’t fought since a unanimous-decision victory over Rydell Booker in November 2019.
In the co-main event, Lawrence Okolie takes on Nikodem Jezewski in a 12-round cruiserweight battle of unbeaten fighters. Okolie (14-0, 11 KOs) has won his past four fights by stoppage, including a seventh-round TKO of Yves Ngabu on the Josh Taylor-Regis Prograis undercard at the World Boxing Super Series junior welterweight finals in October 2019. Okolie was supposed to face Krzysztof Glowacki for the vacant WBO title, but Glowacki tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Jezewski (19-0-1, 9 KOs).
Also on the card, Hughie Fury faces Mariusz Wach in a 10-round heavyweight bout. Hughie (24-3, 14 KOs) is heavyweight champion Tyson Fury’s cousin. Hughie, who lost a decision to Pulev in 2018, is 3-1 since then, all three victories by stoppage. Wach (36-6, 19 KOs) challenged Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight championship in 2012 but lost in a unanimous decision.
Nick Parkinson will recap the fights and provide analysis as they happen.
Fight in progress: Anthony Joshua vs. Kubrat Pulev, 12 rounds, for Joshua’s WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles
Okolie demolishes late replacement Jezewski
Cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie made quick work of Nikodem Jezewski, whom he floored three times in a second-round TKO win at The SSE Arena in Wembley, England, on Saturday.
For Okolie, who now waits for a world title shot, this was an inconvenient fight he just had to deal with. Jezewski (19-1-1, 11 KOs) was a last-minute replacement after Okolie’s first world title attempt against Krzysztof Glowacki was called off. But Okolie coped with the late change in his opponent with aplomb.
“I will be unified world champion in 2021,” Okolie, from London, said after the fight.
Former world titlist Glowacki tested positive for COVID-19, and his fellow Polish fighter Jezewski stepped in at a week’s notice, but without the vacant WBO cruiserweight world title on the line.
Okolie (15-0, 13 KOs), 27, from London, who is managed by unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua, showed he has heavyweight power. Okolie floored Jezewski twice in the first round, first with a body shot, then wobbling Jezewski with a straight right before dropping him again.
Okolie predictably dropped Jezewski again in the second round, with a right hand straight to the jaw, and the fight was stopped.
“Glowacki, [WBC champion Ilunga] Makabu, [Mairis] Breidis, Okolie will go through the whole cruiserweight division before going to heavyweight,” Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, who promotes Okolie, said.
Okolie is ranked No. 2 with the WBO governing body, his highest ranking among the four bodies, and has yet to fight for a world title.
Fury overcomes bad cut, dominates Wach
Hughie Fury, cousin of WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, shrugged off a cut above his left eye due to an accidental head-butt to unanimously outpoint Mariusz Wach 100-190 (twice) and 100-91, in a heavyweight 10-round bout.
Fury kept up his aggression despite the injury and was rewarded with a deserved win to continue his momentum towards earning a future world title fight.
Fury (25-3, 14 KOs), 26, from Manchester, England, has seen his world title hopes hit by close-decision loses to Alexander Povetkin in 2019, Kubrat Pulev in 2018, and Joseph Parker in 2017.
Hughie has sparred many rounds with Tyson, who has a similar height and reach to Wach (36-4, 19 KOs), 40, from Poland, and he was comfortable being the aggressor against a larger opponent.
Fury started the fourth round aggressively, well in control, but ended the round in risk of being stopped after the ringside doctor was called on to check on the cut.
Wach, who weighed 27 pounds more than Fury, is long past his best days, when he took Wladimir Klitschko the distance in an unsuccessful world title attempt eight year ago, but he still had enough left to extend Fury to the full distance.
Bakole outpoints Kuzmin to win unanimous decision
Heavyweight Martin Bakole boxed neatly, without taking too many risks, to outpoint Sergey Kuzmin in a 10-round unanimous-decision victory. All three judges scored the fight for Bakole (98-92, 97-93 and 96-94).
Bakole (15-1, 12 KOs), who is from Democratic Republic of Congo but now based in Scotland, is a sparring partner of Joshua. He has now compiled five consecutive wins since being stopped by Michael Hunter in 2018.
Russia’s Kuzmin (15-1, 11 KOs), 33, lost to Hunter in his previous fight 15 months ago, but gave Bakole a close fight, catching Bakole with a right hand in the last round. But Bakole’s jab proved to be the key throughout the fight and ultimately led him to victory.
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