By Rachel Aylett
On 24 August in Schwerin, Germany, Kubrat Pulev outscored American veteran Tony Thompson to push forward in his quest for world honours. Pulev therefore succeeded where David Price had twice failed in surmounting his biggest hurdle on the way to the top of the heavyweight mountain. One of the main questions going into the fight was could Pulev win a major championship belt at heavyweight? The answer was an emphatic ….. maybe?
As with Price, Thompson was easily Pulev’s best opponent to date. For the first third of the fight, it looked as though it may be a step too far for the up and coming Bulgarian, as Thompson outjabbed him comfortably. The first three rounds clearly went to Thompson as Pulev seemed to have difficulty working out the tall southpaw in front of him. Thompson was looking supremely confident whilst Pulev looked a touch confused.
The fight swung around in the fourth round. At last, Pulev was able to land a couple of sold straight right hands to the chin of Thompson, finally giving his fans reason to cheer. More importantly, a bad-tempered exchange by the ropes, in which Pulev landed a shot after the break, drawing an angry punch in response from the American, seemed to unsettle Thompson and take him out of his rhythm. I still gave this very close round to Thompson, but it would be the last one he would win.
From the fifth round on, the fight gradually edged to Pulev, who never again had a problem getting his shots off. It seemed as though Thompson’s tactics changed. His cornerman, Charles Mooney, Montreal Olympics silver medallist for the USA, kept instructing him to “close the distance” and drop the left hand in. This was just playing into Pulev’s hands though, as it gave him the opportunity to land his thudding jab as Tony came forward. Surely, Thompson’s best chance was to stay on the outside, being awkward and utilising his height and reach advantages.
Gradually, Pulev was levelling up the fight on the scorecards and, as each round passed, Thompson was becoming less and less effective. From about the eighth round Thompson clearly started to tire, and the last four rounds were relatively comfortable for the European fighter.
Thompson put forth a brave rally in the last round, but was still outworked by the younger man. Never at any point in the fight did it seem that either fighter was hurt or even shaken. The best punch of the fight came in the ninth round when a beautiful, straight right hand from Pulev landed flush on Thompson’s chin. The American took it well though. At the end, the three scorecards read 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112, all for Pulev. I concurred with the latter.
With this victory, Pulev is now firmly entrenched on the borders of Klitschko Kingdom, along with several other pretenders to the throne of the brother champions. However, none of these are strong enough to launch a full-scale invasion yet, as King Wladimir is still firmly entrenched on his particular heavyweight throne, while brother Vitali equivocates about his future as he swings back and forth between politics and boxing.