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Anthony Joshua managed to claw his way through what was a difficult year in 2019 where he lost his trio of heavyweight titles via upset knockout only to be criticized for how safe he fought in winning them back, but the unified heavyweight champ has learned to let the criticism of others slide off of him. 

Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) believes he’s a better person for having experienced his two-fight series with Andy Ruiz Jr. and plans to show that on Saturday when he faces mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) in front of a quarantined attendance of 1,000 fans inside London’s Wembley Arena (DAZN, 2 p.m. ET).

“The pressure I went through last year was tough but it made me stronger mentally with thicker skin,” Joshua said during Thursday’s final press conference. “I have always been tough and wanted to fight the best, that’s not the issue. What have I to lose? I only have to gain.”

Despite Pulev’s lack of a crossover name, Joshua has plenty of respect for the danger that the native of Bulgaria brings. 

The 39-year-old Pulev attacked former unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko with reckless endangerment during his lone pro defeat in 2014 before Klitschko delivered a knockout blow. It was a fight in which Joshua, then just a handful of fights into his pro career, served as one of Klitschko’s chief sparring partners in training camp.

“I have known Kubrat Pulev for many years and I understand the tactics of fighting him,” Joshua said. “I prepare like I am a 15-round fighter and I am ready to go until the final bell.”

Joshua, 31, said there will be no problem getting up for this mandatory fight because of the fact that he respects Pulev and the eight-fight win streak he uncorked in the aftermath of the Klitschko fight. This weekend’s challenge is one that was originally scheduled to happen in late 2017 until a shoulder injury saw Pulev withdraw and Carlos Takam take his place at the last minute en route to a stoppage defeat. 

“I always believed this fight would come one day,” Pulev said. “We didn’t fight in 2017 but I am here right now and ready. I am fit and I think on Saturday night I will take the win.

“In 2017 I was younger but also I had this problem from sparring and couldn’t fight because I couldn’t train. Now, I am healthy. I am not 22 and I don’t have time, of course, but I am ready. Of course I respect Anthony because he was an Olympic and world champion. He’s a good fighter but I’m ready. I have done everything to become champion.”

Given Pulev’s aggressive style, there has been some question as to whether Joshua’s knockout loss to Ruiz in June 2019 changed him as a fighter because of how passively he chose to box from the outside in claiming a unanimous decision in their rematch last December. 

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a complete preview of Saturday’s fight card featuring Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev below.

Joshua received very little credit for the win, largely because Ruiz entered the fight in such poor shape physically after enjoying his short reign as champion and coming in grossly overweight. 

“I want to promote boxing, I don’t want the credit. I don’t yearn for it,” Joshua said. “I’m very motivated and hungry, that’s why I put myself at the forefront of opportunity .The world is my oyster but at the end of the day, I can’t expect everyone to respect me. That’s for myself and why I work so hard for my family.

“I have been fighting at a top level ever since I walked into the gym after a three-year amateur career. I have been punched by the strongest people many times and it still hasn’t changed me. I have a lot of character. Every fight I train hard but it’s the character that separates me. I’m going to go into the fight and I’m definitely going to get hit but so is he and it’s the last man standing.”

Fight card, odds

  • Anthony Joshua (c) -1000 vs. Kubrat Pulev +650, unified heavyweight titles
  • Lawrence Okolie vs. Nikodem Jezewski, WBO international cruiserweight title
  • Hughie Fury -650 vs. Mariusz Wach +475, heavyweights
  • Martin Bakole -330 vs. Sergey Kuzmin +260, WBC international heavyweight title

Prediction

Although Pulev has scored decision wins by outboxing the likes of Tony Thompson, Dereck Chisora and Hughie Fury throughout his career, his resume is solid but far from overwhelmingly spectacular. Because of that, his performance in the Klitschko loss could be a good indicator as to what this fight looks like. 

Pulev might be six years older than the night he attempted to jump Klitschko off the opening bell and constantly look to provide pressure, but it’s a similar plan of attack that might be his best option given Joshua’s vulnerable chin and the fact that AJ will be the taller and longer fighter with advantages in speed and technique. 

The bad news in this case for Pulev is that the more he presses Joshua in hopes of a knockout, the more he creates a scenario in which a similar knockout defeat feels inevitable. A big reason for that is how Joshua has proven to be an economical and dangerous finisher with both hands when he has has his opponent hurt. 

Should Joshua prove to be gun shy or cautious, Pulev is big and powerful enough to be a problem and, make no mistake, is fully equipped to pull off an upset. But that remains a big if. 

Yes, Joshua played it safe in the Ruiz rematch but a lot of that had to do with his opponent’s deceptively quick hands and underrated technique. AJ is simply better than Pulev in just about every category and as long as he fights confidently enough to get his opponent out of there once Pulev steps on the gas pedal, the reality is he likely will. 

Pick: Joshua via KO5

What are the three best bets you can make on Joshua vs. Pulev? Visit SportsLine now to see Peter Kahn’s picks, all from the fight game manager who’s an astounding 27-2 on boxing picks since the sport returned.



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Badgers’ third period rally falls short against Penn State

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After falling behind by three goals in the first period, the Wisconsin Badgers rallied late, but fell short in a 5-4 loss to Penn State on Friday night.

The Badgers pulled within one goal twice in the third, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

Dylan Holloway got the Badgers on the board in the second period, but Penn State restored its three-goal lead, scoring a few minutes later to make it 4-1.

Roman Ahcan scored halfway through the third period and Ty Pelton-Byce brought the Badgers within one at 12:02.

Penn State took advantage of an open net and regained their two-goal lead before Cole Caufield added a goal in the final minute of the game.

Cameron Rowe made 13 saves in net for the Badgers, while Robbie Beydoun, who entered the game in the first period, ended the night with 21 saves.



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Olympic Football Tournaments 2020 – Men – News – Ripoll: France’s youngsters are gifted, dependable and committed

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Men’s Olympic Football Tournament









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  • Men’s Olympic Football Tournament kicks off in exactly six months
  • We talk to Sylvain Ripoll, coach of France’s Espoirs (U-21) team
  • “I’m part of a generation that dreamed of going to the Olympics”

This Friday 22 January marks six months to the day before the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament kicks off in Tokyo. The tournament will see France back on the Olympic stage 25 years after reaching the quarter-finals at the Atlanta Games in 1996.

So what has caused such a prolonged absence from the Olympics? “I can’t give you an exact answer, since I wasn’t there,” says Sylvain Ripoll, coach of the France Espoirs (U-21) team since 2017. “Qualification for such a prestigious competition is always on a national federation’s wish-list, but for some reason we’ve been unsuccessful in recent times. In any case, we’re delighted to be back with the French team in a major tournament like the Olympics,” said the 49-year-old strategist.

“I’m part of a generation that dreamed of the Olympics – just talking about it always makes our eyes light up,” says the man who was not yet 13 when Les Bleus won gold at Los Angeles 1984. “And I think it’s the same with my players,” he adds. “It generates so many memories and great moments that just being part of it is bound to be an honour.”




The France football team pictured wearing their gold medals



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For now, though, it is still too early to be focusing on Tokyo, with tournaments looming before then both for the U-21s and senior team. “We have the EURO (11 June-11 July) taking place shortly before the Olympic Tournament (22 July-7 August), so one event will influence the other. Before that, there’s the European U-21 Championship, which we’ve qualified for, starting in March in Hungary and ending in June. So, the best thing we can do is to deal with those in the order they come.”

There is no point then in Ripoll looking too far ahead or contemplating which three players over the age of 23 he might include in his squad for Japan, as permitted under the rules of men’s tournament. “Logically, the priority will always be the France senior team,” says the Rennes native, who was nevertheless amenable to remarks last year by Kylian Mbappe, who expressed his desire to take part in the Tokyo Olympics. “We can only rejoice that we have a player in France of the calibre of Mbappe who thinks this way.”

An insatiable talent scout, Ripoll carefully monitors a good 60 players, including 20 who play abroad. He works closely with France’s World Cup-winning coach Didier Deschamps, who is always looking for new blood to energise his squad. “Didier and I talk a lot about the Espoirs’ potential to establish themselves into the senior team. You need to be performing regularly at the highest level for some time to break into the senior side, whereas with the Espoirs, that process can happen much more quickly,” he explains.




France coach Sylvain Ripoll looks on Serravalle 21-06-2019 Stadio San Marino Stadium Football UEFA Under 21 Championship Italy 2019 Group Stage - Final Tournament Group C France - Croatia.



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“Didier and his staff keep a very close eye on the Espoirs and watch a lot of their matches. We talk a lot about the players’ mentality, commitment and potential,” adds Ripoll, who takes immense pride in seeing one of his young players called up. He also regularly talks with the selectors of the younger age-category teams to try to progress the most promising talents through the ranks.

If we add to the mix the exemption that allows the inclusion of the 1997 generation that was eligible for the postponed Olympics last summer, then there will be a particularly large group to choose from when deciding on the final squad for Tokyo.

For all that, Ripoll already has grounds to be satisfied with his current crop. “This is the second generation I’ve been in charge of since I arrived four years ago. Apart from being gifted, which has been the case for many years in France, given our enormous reservoir of talent, I find them to be very dependable and committed. For now, I feel my players are very focused on their goals, and I hope that remains the case,” says the coach, whose aim is not to assemble only a squad of big names for Tokyo.

“There are a lot of criteria that come into play when you put together a squad for a tournament like this. There are performances, of course, but the priority is to have the best possible squad, which doesn’t always mean you only take the best players. We have to assess how squad members complement each other and perform together.”



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Boxing schedule for 2021: Canelo Alvarez vs. Avni Yildirim, Angelo Leo vs. Stephen Fulton on tap

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After a tumultuous 2020 that saw many major fights canceled or postponed, boxing is ready to head into 2021. As many champions and pound-for-pound elites hung on the sidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic, boxing missed out on some big-time fights. However, as the year went out, fighters slowly started to trickle back into the ring, albeit not against the competition we would like to see.

But with guys like Anthony Joshua, Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, Canelo Alvarez and GGG all getting in some tune-up fights, things are looking bright for 2021. And things got rolling with a strong start from Ryan Garcia, who rallied from an early knockdown to stop Luke Campbell and claim the interim WBC lightweight title. Garcia, along with Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Teofimo Lopez and Devin Haney are setting up the prospects of some tasty matchups over the next 12 months in the 135-pound division.

Now as we head into the early part of the year, there’s a plethora of big fights on the books already. IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant is set to take on Caleb Truax at the close of January in his first action in nearly a year. Plus, Canelo Alvarez will make his return to the ring rather quickly when he takes on mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Alvarez is hoping to fight three times this year and could be on a path to facing Plant down the road now that he’s a promotional free agent.

Below is a running list of boxing main events for the 2021 year.

Note: This will be updated constantly with changes and additions.

Jan. 23Uncasville, ConnecticutAngelo Leo (c) vs. Stephen FultonWBO junior featherweight titleShowtime
Jan. 30Los AngelesCaleb Plant (c) vs. Caleb TruaxIBF super middleweight titleFOX
Feb. 13Indio, CaliforniaJoseph Diaz (c) vs. Shavkatdzhon RakhimovIBF junior lightweight titleDAZN
Feb. 20TBAAdrien Broner vs. TBAJunior welterweightsTBA
Feb. 20Las VegasMiguel Berchelt (c) vs. Oscar ValdezWBC junior lightweight titleESPN
Feb. 27Miami Gardens, FloridaCanelo Alvarez (c) vs. Avni YildirimWBC super middleweight titleDAZN
Feb. 27LondonJamel Herring (c) vs. Carl FramptonWBO junior lightweight titleESPN+
March 5TBAClaressa Shields (c) vs. Marie-Eve Dicaire (c)Super welterweight unificationPPV
March 6TBAAlexander Povetkin (c) vs. Dillian WhyteWBC “interim” heavyweight titleDAZN
March 13TBAJuan Francisco Estrada vs. ‘Chocolatito’ GonzalezSuper flyweight unificationDAZN
March 20MoscowArtur Beterbiev (c) vs. Adam DeinesWBC, IBF light heavyweight titlesESPN



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