LONDON — Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and challenger Kubrat Pulev jawed at each other through black face masks Friday on the eve of their title fight at Wembley Arena.
Joshua pointed a finger in Pulev's face as they exchanged words while beefy security guards kept the peace during their weigh-in for Saturday's bout.
During the exchange, Pulev twice readjusted his mask after it slipped below his nose, and Joshua’s mask also drooped low at one point.
The Bulgarian challenger will fight at his lightest weight — 239 1/2 pounds (108 3/4 kilograms) — in 11 years.
The 31-year-old Joshua will be lean as well after weighing in at 240 3/4 pounds (109 kilograms). That’s slightly heavier than his last fight but still the second-lightest he’s fought at in six years.
Pulev appears to be the only hurdle Joshua needs to clear before a shot at being the undisputed world heavyweight champion.
Joshua holds the WBA, IBF, WBO belts. An agreement in principle has been reached with Tyson Fury, the WBC champion, for a two-fight deal in 2021 to unify the titles in an all-British blockbuster.
First, Joshua must take care of business against the hardened Pulev, who didn't wait for Saturday to get things started. He yelled at Joshua even before the champion was able to weigh in.
Promoter Eddie Hearn relayed some of the face-to-face exchange:
"Pulev said, ‘You’re nothing. I'm better than you,'" Hearn said. "AJ said, ‘Who have you beaten?’ Pulev said, ‘I’ll end you.’"
Joshua later told Sky Sports: "I would have clapped him on his jaw ... but I have to wait 'til tomorrow."
Joshua has become used to selling out Britain’s biggest sports venues but only 1,000 fans will be allowed in Wembley Arena for his first home fight since knocking out Alexander Povetkin in September 2018.
The Briton last fought a year ago when he beat Andy Ruiz Jr. to reclaim his belts.
It will be the 39-year-old Pulev's second world title fight — he lost to Wladimir Klitschko in 2014 for what remains his only professional defeat — and a belated shot at Joshua, having been forced to pull out of a 2017 fight against the Briton after sustaining a shoulder injury late in his training camp.