ACCORDING to his promoter, Kubrat Pulev, the number one ranked heavyweight with the IBF, is more concerned about fighting in Great Britain than he is fighting Anthony Joshua, the IBF champion.

Pulev, whose sole pro loss came against Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, is next up for Joshua, and has been waiting for his mandated shot at the title for some time now. However, though he is pleased to be on the cusp of landing something he feels he deserves, Pulev is less happy about the prospect of having to travel to the United Kingdom to receive his life-changing payday.

“Anyone talking about an Anthony Joshua fight with Tyson Fury is very premature,” Bob Arum, Pulev’s promoter, told World Boxing News. “Joshua has to fight Pulev and we have a big problem with the site. For Pulev and Joshua, the British Board are not being very co-operative.

“Pulev is now going to go to purse bid because he doesn’t want to fight in the United Kingdom.

“We are just not going to do the fight in the UK. Because we don’t get a level playing field.”

This reluctance should come as no surprise to anybody who has seen British referees or judges make decisions absurd to all but the ones making them. It’s hardly a problem exclusive to Britain, but that’s hardly an excuse for regular displays of incompetence, either.

Kubrat Pulev
Joshua and Pulev were originally set to meet in the UK in 2017 (Action Images/Andrew Couldridge)

WITHIN an hour of making the correct and compassionate decision to prevent a heavyweight champion from taking further punishment, Mark Breland, a former Olympic and WBA welterweight champion, was removed from a changing room and left to stand in a corridor in tears.

That, according to UK boxing pundit Spencer Fearon, was what happened in the aftermath of Deontay Wilder’s seventh-round stoppage loss to Tyson Fury last Saturday (February 22) and, if true, says plenty about not only Wilder’s relationship with Breland but also the sensitive and nuanced business of trainers throwing in the towel.

“Mark Breland did the right thing. I’m backing Mark Breland, a beautiful human being,” Fearon said to PepTalkUK. “Mark Breland was outside the changing room crying. Did you know that? He was crying because that man said he couldn’t come in the changing room.

“That’s your fighter, you built you own personal relationship, you’ve been with this man from the get-go, and they are saying to you, ‘No, you can’t come in the changing room.’

“You see how deluded and twisted these guys are? And it ain’t gonna get no better.

“If Deontay Wilder doesn’t apologise to Mark Breland the same thing is going to happen again, and it’s going to be worse.”

The problem with judging the timing of Breland’s stoppage is that Wilder, in being lauded the greatest heavyweight puncher of all time, is now, rightly or wrongly, deemed capable of turning a fight around with one punch. Therefore, the assumption is that he should be given more benefit of the doubt than anyone – regardless of how many rounds he is behind, regardless of how much blood is on his face and gushing from his ear. If anybody can change momentum, if anybody can do the impossible, it is him. Or so the theory goes.

“I am upset with Mark for the simple fact that we’ve talked about this many times and it’s not emotional,” Wilder said. “It is not an emotional thing, it’s a principle thing. We’ve talked about this situation many, many years before this even happened.

“I said as a warrior, as a champion, as a leader, as a ruler, I want to go out on my shield.

“If I’m talking about going in and killing a man, I respect the same way. I abide by the same principle of receiving.

“So I told my team to never, ever, no matter what it may look like, to never throw the towel in with me because I’m a special kind.

“I still had five rounds left. No matter what it looked like, I was still in the fight.

“I understand he was looking out for me and trying to do what he felt was right, but this is my life and my career, and he has to accept my wishes.”

A lot of what Wilder says has foundation and makes sense. But when dealing with a sport in which injuries are often life-changing and tragedies are all too commonplace, nothing makes as much sense as a former world champion deciding to stop a fight when seeing signs he doesn’t like.

Deontay Wilder might have been the champion and the star and the one in the ring. But Mark Breland had been there before and seen all the things to which Wilder remains ignorant.

Mark Breland (USA) during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports)