Eddie Hearn couldn’t help but laugh.
Anthony Joshua’s promoter expected Bob Arum to at least give Joshua some credit for his impressive performance against Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night in London. Arum, Pulev’s co-promoter, repeatedly predicted Pulev would ruin the Joshua-Tyson Fury fight by upsetting the IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion.
It was Joshua, of course, who scored four knockdowns on his way to knocking out his 39-year-old opponent in the ninth round at Wembley Arena. A devastating right hand by Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) dumped Pulev (28-2, 14 KOs) flat on his back to bring an emphatic end to their scheduled 12-round bout.
Hearn has been perplexed by the reactions from Arum and others to Joshua’s victory.
“To be honest, I find it absolutely hilarious,” Hearn stated during an appearance on “The Ak And Barak Show” on DAZN and SiriusXM. “I mean, like you’ve got Bob Arum saying Pulev will absolutely destroy Joshua in this fight, blah, blah, blah. And then Pulev don’t win one round and gets dismantled and knocked out, and Arum goes, ‘I wasn’t very impressed by his performance.’ I mean, absolutely no one wants to give Anthony Joshua any credit. But unfortunately, this is the way of the world when you’re at the top. You know?”
England’s Joshua, befuddled by the criticism, asked Hearn for his honest assessment of how he performed in the 31-year-old champion’s first fight since winning back his four titles from Andy Ruiz Jr. a year earlier in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
“So, even AJ, a lot of the people were baffled on the team,” Hearn said. “You know, AJ, I spoke to him last night. He’s like, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘I thought it was absolutely spectacular.’ I said, ‘You were calm.’ I said, ‘You got hit twice in the fight.’ I said, ‘You [took] one right hand, and that’s it. This guy is supposed to have one of the best jabs in the division. … I don’t think he hit you with a clean jab.’ Right?
“I said, ‘You tied him up every time he got anywhere near you. I said, ‘The third round was sensational.’ I said, ‘Actually, the guy should’ve been stopped. He turned his back.’ Right? Yet the referee decided to give him an eight count. Well, you only do that when a fighter is being held up by the ropes. He wasn’t on the ropes. He put his hands over the turnbuckle, to say, ‘No, no, no, no. I’m done. I can’t handle this anymore.’ But credit to him, because my God, is he tough.”
While obviously biased based on his long relationship with Joshua, Hearn thinks critics should appreciate how the 2012 Olympic gold medalist has evolved since Ruiz upset him by seventh-round technical knockout in June 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“You listen to some of the comments,” Hearn said, “and it’s like, ‘Oh, you know, he should’ve been more reckless.’ Well, why? And then, ‘He’s stuck between styles.’ He’s not stuck between styles. He’s just a smarter fighter. But he used to be all over the place, right? Now, he knows how to win, he knows how to adapt.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.