London, United Kingdom, Mar 2 – Anthony Joshua said he felt “honoured” to be topping the bill in the first professional boxing event at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after it was announced he would defend his world heavyweight titles at the north London football ground against Kubrat Pulev on June 20.
Joshua, 30, regained the WBA, IBF and WBO titles with a unanimous points win over Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia in December.
That victory saw the Londoner avenge the first defeat of his professional career, in New York last June.
“On June 20, I am defending my heavyweight world titles,” said Joshua in a statement posted on Tottenham’s website on Monday.
“I’m back in my home city after some time away. A spectacular stadium has been built in North London and I’m honoured to bring the boxing community from all over the world to witness us make history with the stadium’s first heavyweight world title fight.”
“The belts go back up in the air and nothing will stop me from being victorious,” added Joshua ahead of his first bout in the UK since he defeated Alexander Povetkin at Wembley in September, 2018.
The prospects for a much-anticipated all-British “superfight” between Joshua and Tyson Fury suffered a setback when American Deontay Wilder said he would trigger a clause in his contract for a third meeting with Fury, the new WBC heavyweight champion.
– ‘Must-win fight’ –
But Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, talked up the Pulev clash by saying: “I’m so excited to see Anthony Joshua return to the capital, 70,000 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is going to be very special.
“As we go into what I believe will be the biggest year of ‘AJ’s’ career so far, all our attention turns to Kubrat Pulev in an absolute must-win fight.”
Bulgarian boxer Pulev has won 28 of 29 bouts, with his only loss coming in a world title defeat by Wladimir Klitschko back in 2014.
“Pulev is undefeated in six years and his team and especially Bob Arum really fancy this,” said Hearn. “I think you are going to see something special from ‘AJ’ on June 20 — a destructive performance on the road to undisputed.”
Pulev, who is the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s IBF title, pulled out of a scheduled meeting with the Briton in 2017 due to injury.
But in a Facebook post on Monday, the 38-year-old Pulev said: “I am happy that I will be able to show the world how strong I really am.”
Fury stopped Wilder in the seventh round of their heavyweight title rematch in Las Vegas last week — the American’s first defeat of his career — after a draw between the two boxers in 2018.
Hearn responded by saying Joshua’s camp would do “everything we can” to bring about a fight with Fury.
The 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium could stage a Joshua-Fury bout but it might yet take place overseas for financial reasons, with Saudi Arabia reported to be a potential venue.