Heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev said he struggled with the decision to withdraw from his mandatory shot against unified world titleholder Anthony Joshua because of a torn muscle in his right shoulder/chest area.
“I am aware that the news of my injury and the subsequent cancellation of the fight between me and Anthony Joshua for the world title surprised you. It wasn’t easy for me to make that decision,” Pulev wrote on social media. “I know, in my place, almost everyone would choose to get into the ring in Cardiff, despite everything, and collect a few million. Anyone else, but not me!”
Pulev was due to challenge Joshua for his two world title belts on Oct. 28 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, before a sold-out crowd of around 75,000. However, Pulev suffered the injury during training camp and ultimately made the decision to withdraw on Monday.
He was replaced by the next leading available contender, France’s Carlos Takam (35-3-1, 27 KOs), who assumed the IBF’s mandatory position, leaving Pulev — who stood to earn a seven-figure payday — out in the cold.
“In my life and in my world, it’s not all money. I’ve learned that a man goes into battle to win it,” Pulev said. “I understand that despite the vicissitudes of life, a man should not cheat on his beliefs. Anthony Joshua has to defend world titles against a strong rival and I’m glad he already has one.”
Kalle Sauerland, Pulev’s promoter, said Pulev wanted to fight but eventually took the doctor’s advice to withdraw from the bout.
“He wanted to try and train,” Sauerland said. “He spoke to the doctor, and he would have faced serious damage [had he gone through with the bout].”
Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs), 36, of Bulgaria, suffered his only defeat when then-unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko scored a crushing fifth-round knockout against him in November 2014 in what was that year’s knockout of the year. Pulev has won his five fights in a row since, including a decision against British contender Dereck Chisora and a third-round destruction of faded former world titleholder Samuel Peter, to reach the mandatory position. That’s gone now, but he said he hopes to eventually get a chance to face England’s Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs).
“I’m still thirsty for this battle, and I think it’s only a matter of time,” Pulev said. “It is such challenges that make my heart beat hard and feel that I am truly alive. In a week’s time, we tried everything to [heal] the injury, but everything needs [time]. I take it as a sign. If God decided, then that’s how it was meant to be. Still, I will be myself, and I will not betray my principles. A few million won’t make me richer or happier.
“My wealth is the undying love of the Bulgarian people, from whom I always buy strength and inspiration and that gives me the meaning of everything I do.”