COSTA MESA, California – Kubrat Pulev’s debut under the Top Rank banner on Saturday night proved to be a memorable one.
Pulev overcame a nasty cut, a point deduction, and a strong challenge from Bogdan Dinu to win by knockout in round seven.
The 37-year-old Pulev, who is originally from Bulgaria, improves to 27-1 (14 knockouts) and has won his last seven bouts since his knockout loss to then-heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in November of 2015.
With a large contingent of Bulgarians and Bulgarian-Americans in the crowd inside The Hangar cheering his every move, Pulev was the aggressor, working behind a jab and connecting with right hands during the first two rounds.
Dinu, who was knocked out by heavyweight contender Jarrell Miller in his previous bout on Nov. 17, finally let his hands go in round three, initiating exchanges and landing several combinations to the head.
During an exchange in round four, a right hand by Dinu opened a cut along the left eye of Pulev. Blood oozed out of the cut during the rest of the fight, which was a significant challenge for trainer/ cutman Rudy Hernandez to address.
Both fighters had their moments in rounds four and five. Dinu was effective initiating exchanges and keeping Pulev on his back foot. By round six, Pulev swung momentum his way, landing the cleaner punches, particularly right hands to the head of Dinu.
The action took a bizarre turn in round seven. Pulev landed a series of blows, including two punches behind the head of Dinu after he had dropped to the canvas. Referee Raul Caiz, Sr. deducted a point from Pulev and allowed Dinu time to recover, but counted the knockdown.
Caiz Sr. had brought the doctor in to assess whether Dinu could continue after the foul, but had ruled it accidental and decided that the fight couldn’t end on a disqualification, and that it would go to the scorecards if the fight was stopped at that point.
Dinu answered the doctor’s questions to his satisfaction, and Caiz Sr. warned Pulev “Don’t be crazy” as the fight resumed.
Sensing his opponent had not recovered yet, Pulev charged forward, throwing a series of right hands to the head, dropping Dinu to the canvas for a second time.
Dinu beat the count and fought back bravely, but he was dropped again by another series of right hands from Pulev. Referee Raul Caiz, Sr. stopped the fight at 2:40.
Back to back to back knockdowns for @KubratPulev!! #PulevDinu | @ESPN pic.twitter.com/yufBz56j1i
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) March 24, 2019
Pulev, who now resides in Las Vegas, is the number one contender with the IBF to face Anthony Joshua, who also holds the WBA and WBO heavyweight title belts.
“Sometimes fights turn out good and sometimes they turn out bad,” said Pulev after the fight. “I was prepared. I was fit. I proved I have the heart of a champion. I was showed I was a good boxer today.”
Pulev is ranked No. 10 by The Ring.
Dinu (18-1, 14 KOs) believed the punches behind the head discombobulated him, affecting his performance in the final round.
“It was a good fight, and I caught him by surprise during the fight,” said Dinu, who is from Romania. “He hit me in the back of the head. I threw some good punches. I tried to fight with this guy.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV.com since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and FightNights.com. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing
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