SCHWERIN, MECKLENBURG-VORPOMMERN, Germany — After four rounds of struggling with the southpaw right jab and left hand of heavyweight contender Tony Thompson, Kubrat Pulev used a consistent workrate and pressure to wear down his older foe in route to a unanimous 12-round decision.
The 32-year old Pulev (18-0, 9 KOs) was hesitant to press the attack early as his main weapon, the jab, was rendered ineffective by Thompson’s southpaw stance. Pulev used a lot of wasted motion circling his lead left in trying to feint Thompson, who remained composed and landed several hard right jabs down the middle. This continued in rounds 2-4, with Pulev occasionally showing life by stepping in with lead right hands.
The tide shifted in the fifth when Thompson abandoned the jab, allowing Pulev to utilize his faster hands and get off first with right crosses and short hooks that drove Thompson into the ropes.
The American veteran would make what appeared to be a key adjustment in the 7th by coming in behind a high guard and banging hooks to the body. Pulev couldn’t handle the inside exchanges against the larger man and opted to hold every time, making the already slow-paced fight a mauling affair through the eighth.
By the ninth, the 41-year old Thompson was drained of energy and reduced to laying on the ropes in a vain attempt to counter. The faster Pulev had a field day raining in short combinations and backing off to reset, making the contest an easy affair through the championship rounds.
The judges rewarded Pulev’s aggression with scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112. The win ends Thompson’s “UK Cinderella Story” which saw him score two upset KOs over previously undefeated David Price. Pulev picks up the IBF “International” heavyweight title, making him a lead candidate to possibly face “regular” IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko.
CAN PULEV DETHRONE WLADIMIR?: In a word….NO. I don’t think much of Pulev, but I admit I was very wrong in picking a Thompson KO. I believed Tony, having fought just a few months ago, would be a little better on the stamina front and start much faster. It’s not so much that Pulev did anything differently as the bout progressed — he just remained consistent while Thompson noticeably got weaker. I thought Thompson was on to something when he started walking down Pulev in rounds seven and eight, but Pulev wore him out in the clinches by leaning on him (Tony hit the canvas a few times from this and was very labored getting up). There will be no “hip-breaking” in the Thompson household this weekend. Then again, why on earth did he strip down to his boxer-briefs in the ring?
Back to the main subject of Pulev-Wladimir.Pulev will have a hard time getting past Wlad’s jab and we all know the right hand will be right behind it. He looks to have a solid chin so we’ll at least get some rounds of it, but I can’t envision any scenario where Pulev can give the champ much trouble.
MISSED KNOCKDOWN AND LATE RALLY FROM THE JUDGES PROPEL ABRAHAM OVER SHIHEPO: A clearly over the hill Arthur Abraham received an undeserved unanimous decision over Willbeforce Shihepo. Abraham was bruised up early on from Shihepo’s workrate and was reduced to one-shot counters over the bout’s first half. For every Abraham punch, Shihepo fired 3-4 in return and put the former champion back on this heels. Many times, Shihepo just needed his jab to keep Abraham at bay.
In exchanges, Abraham was off-balance, resulting in a counter hook knockdown in the sixth that the referee incorrectly ruled a slip. To his credit, Abraham did a lot better over the bout’s second half in landing his right hand with authority. However, it was Shihepo who dictated the action and kept Abraham’s best efforts to get a rhythm neutralized.
Being that this was Germany, the scorecards were filled out before the opening bell, as evidenced from the closing tally of 117-111, 116-113 and 116-112. The fact some of the German faithful booed gives you an idea of how dubious the scores were.
Abraham doesn’t have much left outside of getting a payday from a Robert Stieglitz rubbermatch, and this fight gives you no indication it will turn out any differently from the second fight. It’s been a steady decline since that Jermain Taylor KO to kick off the Super Six way back in 2009.
BRAEHMER DOMINATES: Outside of some roughhouse tactics in clinches from Stefano Abatangelo (one of which was hitting on the break and resulted in a point deduction), Juergen Braehmer had any easy time defending his EBU light-heavyweight title. It was an ugly fight in many spots with head clashes opening cuts above both of Abatangelo’s eyes. As the shorter fighter, Abatangelo tried to bully his way inside but couldn’t avoid the clean punching of the taller champion. Scores for the unanimous decision were 119-108 twice and 115-111.