Kubrat Pulev (right), of Bulgaria, faces fellow heavyweight contender Tony Thompson, of the U.S., during the recent press conference for their IBF title elimination bout on Saturday in Schwerin, Germany.
On Saturday in Schwerin, Germany, Kubrat Pulev returns from a near year long hiatus from the ring when he takes on upset specialist Tony Thompson, who is fresh off back-to-back stoppage wins over Britain prospect David Price.
It’s been a frustrating time for Pulev, who about his time away from the ring through his translator Thomas Schlabe of Sauerland Event.
“The problem was that a lot of fighters did not want to fight me,” he said. “Tomasz Adamek, Ruslan Chagaev, Tyson Fury and so on – they all saw me as a though challenge.”
Pulev is glad to finally be back in action against Thompson.
“His main strength against me will be his experience,” he said. “As a southpaw he also presents a stylistic match up, which is a challenge in itself. Still, I know that he will not show anything I have not seen before. So there can only be a winner and that is me.”
Last year “Cobra” stopped Alexander Dimitrenko to become the European champion. He followed that with a successful first defense over Alexander Ustinov, winning both fights in the penultimate round, showing his strength and stamina in the process.
The 32 year old has a record of 17-0 with 9 stoppage wins since leaving the amateur scene where for several years he was among the best super heavyweights in the world. The highlight of his amateur career was a bronze medal at the 2005 world championships. All of which lead to a seamless progression into the pros, which has seen him matched tough early in his career. He is the No. 1 contender with the IBF and he’s also rated by the WBC and WBO.
RingTV.com spoke with Pulev on a variety of subjects. Here’s what he had to say.
Anson Wainwright: You fight Tony Thompson on Aug. 24 in Schwerin. What do you think of the fight and what does Thompson bring to the table?
Kubrat Pulev: His main strength against me will be his experience. As a southpaw he also presents a stylistic match up, which is a challenge in itself. Still, I know that he will not show anything I have not seen before. So there can only be a winner and that is me!
AW: It’s a quick turnaround for him. In early July he again beat David Price. Presumably you saw those two fights?
KP: Yes, I did. I was especially surprised with his second win against the Englishman. In the first fight I thought that it was just bad luck for David and that he will right the wrongs in the rematch. Price has good attributes for a heavyweight but his psyche seems to betray him. Still, Thompson showed that he is currently one of the best heavyweights around.
AW: It will be nearly a year since you last fought. I am sure you’re very glad to be back in action. What have you done in since your last fight and why have you not fought since you stopped Alexander Ustinov in September of last year?
KP: I am really happy to fight again. The problem was that a lot of fighters did not want to fight me. Tomasz Adamek, Ruslan Chagaev, Tyson Fury and so on – they all saw me as a though challenge. I doubt that they fear me but they did not like their chances against me. So I had to wait for somebody like Tony Thompson. He will show up for a good fight.
AW: You were born, raised and still live in Sofia, Bulgaria. Could you tell us a little about growing up there? Did you have a good background or were things tough for you and your family?
KP: When I was born it was still the time of the iron curtain. We were a middle-class family and I had a wonderful childhood.
AW: It is rare for Bulgarian people to box. There isn’t much of a history of the sport in your country. How did you first become interested and then take it up?
KP: That’s a funny story. My father was a well-known amateur boxer and he loved boxing more than any other sport. As a child I started playing soccer. I had some talent to make it as a goalkeeper. But when you are eight or nine years of age you want your parents to support you. My father said that I could go on playing soccer but that he would not support this hobby. Instead I should try some boxing. He took my younger brother and me to the gym and I loved it. My dad was my first coach when I had my first amateur bout at the age of 13 as a junior flyweight. From then on I won every Bulgarian national championship until I turned pro.
AW: You were a very good amateur. Could you tell us about those days and what you achieved?
KP: I was a European champion in 2008 and won a medal in the world championships in 2005 and won other numerous international tournaments. I enjoyed travelling the world and fighting the best amateurs in my weight class.
AW: Your younger brother, Tervel, is also a very good amateur. He won bronze at last year’s Olympics. Is there any sign of him joining you in the pros?
KP: I do not know when he will turn pro but in my opinion he has all the tools to be successful in the paid ranks.
AW: You are very popular in Bulgaria. Could you tell us about this?
KP: When I am strolling through the streets of Sofia people do recognize me and ask for autographs. I am also starring in commercials in Bulgaria. Even our president invited me a few times as he appreciates my achievements.
AW: What are your thoughts on the current heavyweight division?
KP: It is not as loaded as it was in the 1990s. And you have the unprecedented case of two dominant champions that are brothers – the Klitschkos. Currently it is shaking up a bit as Vitali is near the end of his career and Wladimir is forced into more difficult fights in comparison to the last few years. But most important will be the renewed rise of American heavyweights. Fighters like Deontay Wilder could bring back excitement to boxing fans in the U.S. Boxing is about money and with a strong outlet of U.S. heavyweights good money could be made again in the States.
AW: How do you see these two big fights going and why…
KP: 50/50. Wladimir is the defending champion but Alexander, despite his disadvantage in height, can spell problems due to his speed and fighting spirit. Add to that that the fight is in Russia and this fight is a coin toss.
David Haye-Tyson Fury?
KP: David is the better boxer all-around. He is faster, more skilled and punches harder than Fury. He will take his compatriot to school and knock him out in the second half of the fight.
AW: Tell us a little about yourself as a person and what you enjoy doing away from boxing?
KP: I love to play chess. It compares a bit to boxing as you are in need of a good strategy, maybe adjusting on-the-fly.
AW: Do you have a message for Tony Thompson before your fight?
KP: I want a good fight, a real challenge. I will bring my A-game and so should he. The better man wins.