Anthony Joshua ready to go 12 rounds with Kubrat Pulev on return to ring

Anthony Joshua cannot wait to get back in the ring for the first time since he won back his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts from Andy Ruiz Jr in December.

He was due to face Kubrat Pulev in 2017, but a shoulder injury forced the Bulgarian to pull out.

Three years later they will finally go toe-to-toe in front of 1,000 spectators at Wembley’s SSE Arena.

“The pressure I went through was tough mentally, but it has given me thicker skin,” Joshua said.

Joshua reclaimed the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO world heavyweight championship belts from Andy Ruiz last December
Joshua reclaimed the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO world heavyweight championship belts from Andy Ruiz last December

“I want to be successful in boxing and that is why I fight the top fighters.”

Joshua insisted he was ready to take punches and go all 12 rounds if needed to ensure he takes his record to 24-1 on Saturday.

He added: “I have been punched by the strongest people many times and I am still here today.

“Just because I took a loss to Ruiz, that is not enough to change me because I have character.

“I will definitely get hit and he will definitely get hit and it will be about the last man standing.

“I am prepared for it to go to the final bell, I feel I am a 15-round fighter and if it needs to go 12, I am ready.”

Kubrat Pulev provides Joshua's opposition on Saturday
Kubrat Pulev provides Joshua's opposition on Saturday

Pulev said he has been waiting for his moment to fight the Briton after he was denied a world title shot in 2017, when he suffered a shoulder injury in training ahead of a clash with Joshua at the Principality Stadium.

“I’m ready for this fight. We spend a long time waiting because 2017 I had a problem and that is why I tell my trainer we must go for the win,” the 39-year-old explained.

“That is why I said let’s not fight now (in 2017), because I believed this fight would come again one day and I’m here now, ready to fight good and ready to win.”

Airdrie-based Martin Bakole will fight for the WBC international heavyweight title on the undercard of Joshua-Pulev.

The 27-year-old is confident of success against Sergey Kuzmin and hinted another knockout win could be added to his record.

“I’ve trained with AJ, all the UK guys,” Bakole said. “We have both won 15, lost once, and I’m also a big puncher. Our careers are on the line and we’ll see who is the best.”

FACE OFF 👀 #JoshuaPulev

👑 WBA Super👑 IBF👑 WBO👑 IBO

World Heavyweight Titles on the line this Saturday!

— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) December 10, 2020

Tyson Fury’s cousin Hughie is another in action and will face Mariusz Wach in a heavyweight contest.

He said: “It will be a good fight, but Mariusz hasn’t fought anyone like me, so I’m looking forward to it.

“I can box him, knock him out, I believe in myself, but the main thing is getting the win.”

Lawrence Okolie will no longer be fighting for a world title, but the WBO international cruiserweight belt is on the line against Nikodem Jezewski.

“For me the most important thing is fighting, the (world) titles will come,” the Hackney boxer insisted.

“It is a good opportunity to put in a mature performance and my trainer Shane (McGuigan) said he will not be happy unless I do certain things, so I will make sure I do.”