Bulgarian Heavyweight Kubrat Pulev (18-0, 9KO’s) scored a unanimous decision victory tonight over Tony “The Tiger” Thompson (38-4, 26KO’s) in a final eliminator for the IBF world Heavyweight championship in Schwerin, Germany. The referee for the bout was American Randy Neumann.
The fight began with Thompson landing his southpaw lead right hand regularly and notching up the first two rounds with not much happening other than Thompson landing those jabs.
Pulev seemed to be having early problems with Thompson’s movement, and also seemed a little shocked by the quality and accuracy of the jabs from the 41-year-old American.
The third round began with Pulev putting more effort into pressurising Thompson. He did move him back to the ropes early in the round, despite a lack of clean landing punches. Thompson though weathered the early storm and started mixing his punches up, landing shots to the head and body, narrowly taking the third round.
In round four, the fight started to change the direction in which it was going. It began with both fighters landing shots on each other before Pulev took over and out landed Thompson until the final 20 seconds when “The Tiger” landed a couple of well timed counters and a few jabs.
But, it was not enough to take the round, and Pulev won his first round of the fight and then backed it up in the fifth by repeating the performance, after landing heavier shots, particularly the straight right hands.
The sixth was the best round of the fight, with Thompson coming out pressing the issue, and trying to re-establish the jab that had deserted him a little over the last couple of rounds.
He had some success before Pulev landed a heavy one-two to Thompson's head, and then the Bulgarian began to take charge, landing a few hard rights, only for Thompson to land a counter and follow it up with a couple more decent shots going into the final minute of the round.
The round ended with Thompson against the ropes firing off shots but not landing cleanly, when the bell sounded both men threw and landed shots on the other and the referee had to intervene.
From the seventh round onwards, the fight took on a more one-sided pattern, as Thompson started to show signs of his age and Pulev began walking down the man from Washington D.C. landing regular lead right hands from the orthodox stance, the shot that is well known to be the kryptonite against a southpaw.
Thompson did land a couple of decent shots towards the end, but it was not enough to pull the round back.
In round eight, Thompson had early success, but again the tiredness was showing and the work rate of Pulev as well as the right hand now landing even more regularly, were swinging the fight in the direction of the Bulgarian who is the IBF #1 contender.
Pulev took the eighth and continued his good work in the ninth again scoring a lot of right hands and at one point pushing Thompson down and hitting him once he had lost his footing, the referee made the correct call and called it “no knockdown”, wiped down Thompson's gloves and let them get on with it.
Pulev then landed a very heavy right hand on Thompson and for the first time in the fight the American was genuinely hurt. Luckily for Thompson the bell rang to save him, but with Pulev again taking the round, his work rate was now making Thompson breathe heavily, and the jab that was landing so frequently for Thompson in the first few rounds was now non-existent.
Round 10 began and Thompson’s head seemed to have cleared but the tiredness was really affecting him now, and, to make things worse, Pulev’s jab was starting to land every time he threw it, making it difficult for Thompson to land anything in return.
Pulev was starting to show signs that he was ready to settle for a decision win rather than risking taking any counter shots from Thompson, and he cannot be blamed really when you consider a world title shot was on the line.
He continued to control the fight in the 11th round, and the jab was again dominating Thompson. The fight now seemed to have an inevitability about it, as it edged closer to a Pulev decision win, but Thompson landed a good counter right hand at the end of the round which gave him a little confidence to take into the 12th, despite clearly losing the 11th.
The 12th round was very quiet for the first minute or so until Thompson countered an attack from Pulev with a well timed left hand counter. He also went on to land a few more jabs, but it was too little too late, and despite him winning the final round I had the fight scored at 116-113 in Pulev’s favour.
When the official scorecards came in the three judges at ringside scored the fight 116-112, 118-110 and 117-111, all in favour of the Bulgarian, Pulev who should now move on to fight the winner of the Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin showdown.
It was a good result for Pulev and he proved that he definitely belongs in the top 10 of what is an admittedly weak Heavyweight division right now. The problem is I really don’t see him having anything to trouble Klitschko with. He’d give up speed, strength, height and reach to Wladimir and his boxing skills are also considerably less than that of the champion in my opinion.
To beat Wladimir I also believe you need genuine one punch K.O. power, and again it is something Pulev lacks. He has decent power but he needs to land a lot of shots to wear down his opponents and I seriously doubt he could land enough on Klitschko.
That is of course assuming that Klitschko gets past Povetkin, which is a much more difficult fight than we are used to seeing the Champion in.
As for Thompson, he showed that he can still live in the top 10 of the division, but he just doesn't have enough left to launch a world title attack on either Klitschko brother.
There are fights out there for him, I’d like to see how fellow American Deontay Wilder would match up with him. So far in his 29-fight career Wilder has KO’d every opponent and is yet to get past the fourth round. Someone like Thompson might have what it takes to ask a few questions of Wilder.
There would also be interest for Thompson to take on Englishman Dereck Chisora, and after seeing how Pulev dealt with Thompson, maybe David Price could fancy his chances of trying to avenge his two defeats to the American, only time will tell.
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