Top Rank, Epic Sports sign multiyear deal to co-promote Kubrat Pulev

NEW YORK -- Top Rank is beefing up its heavyweight ranks by making a deal to co-promote contender Kubrat Pulev.

Pulev has been promoted by Epic Sports' John Wirt and Ivaylo Gotzev, but they have hammered out a multiyear deal with Top Rank to co-promote Pulev.

Pulev, Wirt, Gotzev and Top Rank chairman Bob Arum signed the paperwork at an afternoon news conference at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. After that, they left to attend the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza lightweight title unification card that Top Rank was promoting in the arena on Saturday night.

The 37-year-old Pulev (26-1, 13 KOs), of Bulgaria, is one of the mandatory challengers for three-belt unified titlist Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs). Pulev earned the mandatory position by outpointing Hughie Fury -- lineal champion Tyson Fury's first cousin -- in a title eliminator on Oct. 27 in Pulev's hometown of Sofia.

The two companies have been working on the deal since.

"Our plan for him is to have him fight a very significant [main event] fight on ESPN in the first first three months of the year, probably in March and get him ready and known to go into the Joshua fight," Arum said.

Arum said they did not yet have a particular opponent in mind for Pulev but that they would get him "as good of an opponent as we can get."

"He's willing to risk the mandatory position because just to be the mandatory to go in and get slaughtered by Joshua and not be prepared makes no sense," Arum said. "But if he fights a top guy and hones his skills and is in fighting shape, he'll beat Joshua."

Arum made a deal with Epic Sports to buy the American broadcast rights to the Pulev-Fury fight to stream it on ESPN+. Arum said he watched the fight, which made him interested in signing Pulev.

"We saw he can fight, and he's a good personality, so we made moves to sign him," Arum said.

Pulev has had one previous opportunity to fight for a world title. He was a mandatory challenger for then-unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko but suffered his only loss by fifth-round knockout in November 2014 -- the ESPN.com knockout of that year.

Pulev has since won six fights in a row, including victories against Fury, contender Dereck Chisora and faded former world titlist Samuel Peter.

Top Rank also promotes heavyweight contenders Bryant Jennings and Andy Ruiz Jr., both former world title challengers.