Anthony Joshua warned Kubrat Pulev he faces “the real one” in Saturday’s world heavyweight title bout in London as the pair almost came to blows at the weigh-in.
Former Olympic champion Joshua defends his IBF, WBA and WBO belts at Wembley Arena against the veteran Bulgarian in front of 1,000 fans due to coronavirus restrictions.
The two men have been scheduled to fight twice before but both times the bout was postponed — in 2017 Pulev was injured and Covid-19 put paid to a planned fight in June.
But the 39-year-old, nicknamed “The Cobra”, boasts an impressive 28-1 record — his only defeat came in a world title fight against Wladimir Klitschko in 2014.
“Many years I’ve been in boxing and seen a lot fighters talk a lot of rubbish, then they get smacked up,” Joshua told Sky Sports.
“I know what he’s like, I have studied him. He thinks he’s a warrior. I said ‘don’t let the guys you’ve fought gas you up, you’re in with a real one now’.
“When people come in the ring with me they are confident and then after a few rounds their soul gets destroyed. When I see that I can take them out.”
Pulev tipped the scales at 239 pounds (108 kilograms), six pounds lighter than before his last bout with Rydell Brooker in November 2019.
Joshua was then roundly booed by Pulev’s entourage before he weighed in at 240 pounds, three pounds more than when he gained revenge on Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019 to reclaim his titles.
A bump of their fists appeared to be the end of a fiery weigh-in, only for Pulev to state: “Tomorrow I show you buddy. I like you, respect you but tomorrow I show you because I am better than you.”
Much of the focus ahead of Saturday has been on a potential “Battle of Britain” between Tyson Fury and Joshua in 2021.
An agreement in principle for Joshua and WBC champion Fury to finally go head-to-head has been in place since earlier this year.