Anthony Joshua impressed and perplexed Dillian Whyte all at the same time Saturday night.
Whyte, who was ringside for Joshua’s knockout of Kubrat Pulev, was surprised Joshua didn’t take out his 39-year-old opponent earlier than the ninth round. The IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion’s rival expected him to stop Pulev soon after scoring two knockdowns during the third round of their scheduled 12-round fight at Wembley Arena in London.
The London-based contender sensed Joshua allowed Pulev to recover following that terrible third round, which made their bout last longer than necessary.
“It was a strange performance,” Whyte told Sky Sports. “Don’t get me wrong – he done good. He got the job done, but it was strange. It was like he’s trapped between different styles. It was like, it looked like he was trying a few things in there, but what got him the victory was going back to the old him and being aggressive. Because he was like switching on, switching off, switching on, switching off. But it’s a good performance, you know, but he could’ve made easier work of it, I think. You know, I think he allowed Pulev to hang around longer than what he needed to, you know?”
Whyte would’ve preferred for Joshua to finish Pulev sooner, yet he couldn’t determine if there was something specific Joshua (24-1, 22 KOs) wanted to accomplish, other than avoiding getting careless, by approaching Pulev cautiously after nearly stopping him in the third round.
“But when he did what he did – he was having success mid to close range,” Whyte explained. “But he kept on going long range for no reason, which I didn’t understand. But maybe he just wanted to show something different. You know, obviously the Fury fight’s looming. Maybe he just wanted to show a different side to his game.”
Whyte credited Pulev (28-2, 14 KOs) for the courage the Bulgarian contender showed by continually trying to fight out of trouble.
“Pulev is a very tough man,” Whyte said. “He’s a very tough man. I’m surprised he got up, and then Joshua let him back into the fight round four, five and six, you know?”
As much as boxing fans want to see it, the 32-year-old Whyte isn’t certain Joshua’s knockout of Pulev will lead to boxing WBC champ Tyson Fury next.
“I don’t know,” Whyte said. “There seem to be a lot of litigations going on. You know, obviously the mandatory situation with me and Povetkin is still up in the air. Obviously, what’s going on with Wilder and Fury, we don’t know yet. So, we’re still waiting to see. But you know, let’s see what happens.”
Whyte (27-2, 18 KOs) is waiting for his immediate rematch with Alexander Povetkin (36-2-1, 25 KOs) to be rescheduled, perhaps for January 30. They were set to fight again November 21, but Russia’s Povetkin contracted COVID-19 and it was postponed indefinitely.
The 41-year-old Povetkin knocked Whyte unconscious with a vicious left uppercut in the fifth round of their August 22 bout for Whyte’s WBC interim title in Brentwood, England.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.