Unbeaten Kubrat Pulev believes he’s the man to end Wladimir Klitschko’s reign as world heavyweight champion when they face off on Saturday in Hamburg.
Pulev is the mandatory challenger of the International Boxing Federation and is undefeated in 20 fights.
Klitschko has been ruling the heavyweight division since 2006 and has not lost in 10 years. His WBA belt is also on the line, along with the minor WBO and IBO titles.
Here are some things to know about the fight:
NEW DATE AND FRICTION: The fight was originally scheduled for Sept. 6, but was postponed after Klitschko hurt a bicep in training. Pulev cast doubt on the seriousness of the injury, just one of the many frictions between the two camps.
Klitschko’s management refused to allow Pulev’s entire staff to attend the pre-match news conference - and Pulev skipped it.
Pulev has also complained about the lack of doping controls during Klitschko’s training, Pulev’s German management turned down Klitschko’s contract for the fight and instead signed a generic IBF contract. They have also argued about the gloves to be used.
TALE OF THE TAPE: Pulev, a 33-year-old Bulgarian, is shorter but usually heavier than Klitschko. Pulev is 1.94 meters (6-foot-4) tall, while Klitschko is 1.98 (6-foot-6). Klitschko is 38, a Ukrainian who spends his time between Germany and California.
Both are European-style fighters, relying on jabs to soften up their opponents. Pulev is known as “the Cobra,” while Klitschko goes by the nickname of “Dr. Steelhammer.” Pulev is likely to seek to come inside, something Klitschko doesn’t like.
RECORDS: Pulev is undefeated in 20 fights, including 11 knockouts, and has beaten taller opponents.
Klitschko is 62-3, with 52 KOs. His last defeat was in 2004 against Lamon Brewster. This is Klitschko’s 26th championship fight and 17th defense of the IBF belt. He has won his last 20 contests, and his eight-year reign, is second only to Joe Louis’ 11 years.
OPPOSING LIFESTYLES: Klitschko is the glamor man of boxing, a multilingual holder of a doctorate, who is expecting a child next month with American actress Hayden Panettiere.
While he trains at a luxury resort in the Austrian Alps, Pulev works out at a former school gym on the outskirts of the former East Berlin, and lives in a three-star hotel owned by a Bulgarian friend. Pulev says boxing is not a “business” for him, but “the meaning of life, a dream, a mania.”
PREDICTIONS: Pulev may be the most serious challenge Klitschko has faced in years. Klitschko is vastly more experienced but Pulev is an accomplished fighter, with youth on his side.
“I am the man of the future, his time is over,” Pulev said in the buildup.
Pulev is likely to take the fight to Klitschko and to be the more active fighter. Klitschko will rely on his trademark jab, the big straight right, and will clinch to blunt Pulev’s attacks.
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