Unbeaten Bulgarian heavyweight Kubrat Pulev (18-0) put himself within touching distance of a shot at Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday night, with a unanimous points win over American southpaw Tony Thompson in their IBF final eliminator - but he did little to suggest that he is the man to end the Klitschko brothers’ long reign as undisputed kings of the division.
The Bulgarian’s points win did highlight a few other valuable points - how good both Klitschko brothers are, how far apart they are in class from the “best of the rest” and it also how much work David Price needs to do before he steps back up to world class.
As Vitali appears to be taking a break from the sport, the only way to get a heavyweight world title shot at the moment is to get a shot at Wladimir and his numerous belts. Once the Ukranian takes care of Alexander Povetkin in Russia in October, Pulev is next in line, but he did little in the 12 rounds against Tony Thompson to suggest that has anything in his arsenal to worry Wladmir. It would be foolish to rule out any heavyweight in a two-horse race but the odds are very much stacked against an upset. Pulev would probably make more money if he fought the winner of Haye-Fury, who duke it out at the end of September. The Bulgarian will have more chance of beating Haye or Fury and he’ll probably feel less pain if he was to lose to either Briton.
Kubrat’s win over Thompson also showed us that our own David Price has a lot of work to do before he can be considered a genuine opponent for Wladimir - or any of the division’s best. After two back-to-back stoppage defeats to Thompson, Price has some questions to answer. He announced on Tuesday night that he has split with his long-term trainer Franny Smith as he looks to rebuild his career. It will be interesting to see if he keeps Frank Maloney as his manager as well, who took both of the defeats to heart. The rebuilding starts now for the giant Liverpudlian heavyweight, and with his power, work ethic, and marketability, he will no doubt have a lot of trainers and promoters queuing up to work with him. The ex-Olympic medallist has the tools to bounce back strongly and let's not forget, he is still British and Commomwealth champion (So he is. About time we had a defence of it look forward to - ed.)
Tony Thompson (38-3), who started the fight well on Saturday evening, knows his way around the ring, and having now lost to Pulev and twice to Wladmir, he could end up finishing his career being a gatekeeper to “world class”. Although you won’t fancy the likeable American to be able to beat David Haye, you wouldn’t bet against him giving Dereck Chisora, Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder or Seth Mitchell a run for their money. This is definitely not the end for Tony The Tiger.
A lot of top heavyweights in the world are currently treading water, either waiting for a shot at one of the brothers, or waiting for one or both of them to retire. Who will be the man to break their dominance? David Haye? Deontay Wilder? Tyson Fury? You never really can really tell with the heavyweights.