Anthony Joshua takes to the boxing ring on Saturday night for the first time in a year to take on the Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, with a heavyweight title fight against Tyson Fury waiting in the wings in 2021 for the winner.
The bookmakers expect an easy victory for AJ, with the Englishman priced at odds of around 1/10 to win the fight. Pulev is 6/1 to upset the odds, with the draw 40/1.
Both fighters have only ever lost one fight: Joshua to Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden last year, and Pulev to Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014.
Most experts appear to be in line with the bookmakers in terms of expecting a fairly comfortable fight for AJ, albeit one he may have to work his way into to avoid any chance of another Ruiz style upset, with Joshua winning via knockout as short as 1/3 with most bookmakers.
Most recognised boxing rankings place Joshua somewhere between first and third in the heavyweight division, with Pulev just inside or outside the top ten depending on where you look, which makes these odds perfectly understandable as there is a clear gulf in class between the two fighters.
However, given five of Pulev’s last eight wins have gone the full distance, and two of Joshua’s last three wins have also been earned via points, the win may not be quite as straightforward as many think.
Indeed, while I think AJ knocking Pulev out in the latter rounds is the most likely outcome, there looks to be a bit of value on Joshua winning on points at 4/1 (bet365) to me.
As he was throughout most of the Clash of the Dunes rematch against Ruiz, I expect Joshua to be a more cautious operator than the young bruiser we saw consistently smash his way through lesser opponents in the early rounds in the early stages of his career.
Joshua’s overly aggressive style against Ruiz in New York cost him dearly in the shape of his titles and unbeaten record, and I don’t see him risking the fight against Tyson Fury which he has been waiting so long for now that it has finally been lined up for next year.
In terms of round betting, Round 6 of the fight appears to be the one bookmakers are most concerned about, with a best price of 10/1 (William Hill). Four of Joshua’s last ten fights have ended in Round 7, meanwhile, with this happening in Joshua’s favour on Saturday 12/1 (William Hill).
I’m not one for round betting personally but if I was to have a punt on Saturday, I’d probably lean towards Joshua to win Round 10 at 14/1 (Bet365) given what I’ve mentioned regarding Joshua’s potential gameplan, and in order to get a bit more bang for your buck.
Carlos Takam took Joshua to this round in 2017 and Pulev is a better fighter than Takam for me, so can definitely push Joshua towards the latter stages if he plays his cards right.