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Security called to separate Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev at weigh-in

Joshua also confirmed he will not take the knee ahead of his fight with Pulev.

Joshua and Pulev face off.
Joshua and Pulev face off.
Image: Nick Potts

ANTHONY JOSHUA WAS booed and told he will lose his world heavyweight title for a second time at the weigh-in ahead of tomorrow’s fight with Kubrat Pulev.

The pair almost came to blows and twice had to be pulled apart by security with plenty of words exchanged between the champion and IBF mandatory challenger.

Pulev was first to weigh-in and tipped the scales at 17 stone 1lbs, six pounds lighter than his last bout with Rydell Brooker in November 2019.

While the Bulgarian had plenty of vocal support from his team at the back of the room, when Joshua made his way in he was roundly booed by the 39-year-old’s entourage.

The 2012 Olympic champion looked irked by the entrance and the continued shouting in his direction by team Pulev before he weighed in at 17 stone 2lbs, slighter heavier than his rival and three pounds more than when he outpointed Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019.

Even before Joshua stepped onto the scales there was plenty of chat between the fighters, but that only increased once the British fighter had officially weighed-in.

The duo went face to face immediately with a security guard putting his arm around the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO holder and yet he was still able to point repeatedly in the face of Pulev, who was happy to talk back despite both wearing face masks.

When they did finally separate, it was short-lived and seconds later they were back involved in another heated exchange with numerous security and promoter Eddie Hearn in between the heavyweights this time.

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.”

Joshua responded by telling Pulev he could try before he imitated with his hand the veteran talked too much.

Plenty of the focus ahead of Saturday has been on a potential ‘Battle of Britain’ between Tyson Fury and Joshua in 2021 and while the latter has insisted on several occasions he is completely focused on this fight, this heated encounter reiterated he must have tunnel vision this weekend.

There has been plenty of respect between the two fighters in the build-up to the main event at Wembley’s SSE Arena, but Pulev has now made it clear the pleasantries are over.

This clash was originally meant for October 2017 but a shoulder injury saw the challenger replaced by Carlos Takam and a date for June this year at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium had to be scrapped.

With the coronavirus pandemic in full flow, the bout was pushed back to December and Wembley’s SSE Arena was settled as the venue despite O2 Arena initially being pencilled in to host the champion’s homecoming.

It has meant Joshua has had to bide his time in 2020 and his year-long wait to get back in the ring again is the longest he has ever gone without a fight in the professional game.

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Meanwhile, Joshua confirmed he will not take the knee ahead of Saturday’s fight with Kubrat Pulev at Wembley’s SSE Arena.

It will be the first time the Briton has stepped into the ring in 2020, a year in which the battle for equality has faced greater scrutiny after the death of George Floyd in the United States in May.

When Floyd was killed, demonstrations happened around the world as part of the Black Lives Matter movement to show support for the fight against racism.

Joshua, who is of Nigerian heritage, attended a march in his hometown of Watford in June but explained why he would not take a knee before this weekend’s world heavyweight bout.

“No, I won’t take the knee,” the 31-year-old said.

“I’m trying to do more tangible things. What we’re trying to do is create a union to support British culture, that’s important to showcase people from the Afro-Caribbean community as valuable members of British society.

“I think that’s more important, that’s what we’re working on at the minute with different athletes, different people, different places.

“Taking a knee is important, 100 per cent but for me, personally, I’m doing something different this time around.”

When sport resumed in the UK this summer following the start of the coronavirus pandemic, footballers regularly took a knee while there have been shows of support in a similar vein in cricket and rugby.

Joshua revealed his team were working behind the scenes alongside charities, with more information hinted to be available after Saturday’s clash.

“I’ve employed someone with the team who is actually working on it,” the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO title holder added.

“Hopefully it comes to fruition and it’s only really to do positive things in the great British environment. There’s sometimes issues with stigma and stereotypes, so it’s to showcase our NHS workers, architects, athletes and be positive for everyone in the community.

“We’ve created a deck, a website, and we’re doing foundational things with grassroots charities at the minute because I can talk to you about boxing but certain issues in the world, I’m not a full-time activist so I’m more than likely to slip up here and there.

“What I would like to do is to team up with charities who deal with these things day in and day out and support their causes and champion certain things.”

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