KEY POINTS

  • Kubrat Pulev issues an apology after saying that Anthony Joshua's "tan is better than mine"
  • Joshua will defend his WBA, IBF and WBO belts against Pulev on Dec. 12 at the O2 Arena in London
  • The European heavyweights had been initially scheduled to face each other in 2017 before Pulev pulled out due to a shoulder injury

Kubrat Pulev has apologized for his controversial comment aimed at boxing heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua during a press conference held in Bulgaria early last week.

Pulev sparked a controversy after he made a comment on Joshua’s skin color by saying the British champ has a “better tan” than him.

The statement didn't sit well with many in the media as it suggested a subtle form of racism, but the 39-year-old insisted that he meant no disrespect when he uttered such words in jest.

“I would never, under any circumstances, allow myself to show disrespect to another human being on racial, ethnic, or religious grounds,” Pulev told the Guardian. “If somebody has been offended by my words, I hope they would try to understand exactly what I meant by them and if they cannot understand me, then accept my sincere apology.”

Pulev’s apology came just before the announcement of his heavyweight bout against Joshua. In a statement via Sky Sports on Friday, Joshua confirmed that he will be defending his WBA, IBF and WBO belts against Pulev--the IBF mandatory challenger--on Dec. 12 at the O2 Arena in London.

"December 12 is the date and once again the heavyweight belts go up in the air and it is my sole focus to make sure that come December 13 they are in their rightful place in the UK," Joshua stated.

"The O2 is the original lion's den, I have a lot of history with the arena, but without the fans, something huge is missing. I am really hoping that safety permitting, we might be able to bring some boxing fans in, but we will have to see.”

Displaying pure class amid the controversy, Joshua refused to trade verbal jabs with his upcoming opponent.

“I respect every opponent and I respect Pulev. I wish him well during his preparation,” the champion expressed.

The bout will be Joshua’s first entry to the ring since recapturing his belts from Andy Ruiz Jr. in their rematch in Saudi Arabia this past December. The title defense had been scheduled for June 20 before it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year is not the first time both European heavyweights were pitted against each other. Joshua was originally set to face Pulev at Cardiff's Principality Stadium in October 2017, but the Bulgarian suffered a shoulder injury during his training, forcing him to withdraw from the bout.