KUBRAT PULEV has issued a 'sincere apology' for saying that Anthony Joshua 'had a better tan' than him.
But the 39-year-old Bulgarian has angrily denied that the comments were racially motivated and says the words were 'taken out of context'.
The two boxers will fight on December 12 with the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles on the line.
Bulgarian Pulev gave a press conference in his homeland on Thursday after the fight was confirmed where he made controversial comment about his opponent's skin colour.
He said: "His strengths? I'd say he has a very powerful punch undeniably.
"What are his other strengths? His tan is better than mine."
His comments were slammed by many on social media, and even fellow heavyweight Derek Chisora, speaking on talkSPORT, said that Pulev needed to apologise.
Now Pulev has explained himself in a lengthy statement.
He said: "I would never, under any circumstances, allow myself to show disrespect to another human being on racial, ethnic or religious grounds. That’s what I’ve been teaching my little nephews all the time.
“Each of us is born on this earth with equal rights, and skin color is completely irrelevant. I can’t believe how my words about Anthony Joshua have been taken out of context.
"It never even occurred to me to discredit another sportsman because of the colour of his skin!
“Amongst my friends there are people of different races and ethnicities. They are all great and worthy people, as well as my very good, long-standing friends whom I respect and love.
“It is 2020 and I very much hope that people would stop this small-mindedness and that human beings would evolve intellectually to realize that the truly valuable human qualities in this world are not manifested externally, but through the power of the human spirit and the virtues we carry within ourselves!
“Therefore, 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.”
SOCIAL MEDIA FUMING
Joshua – who turns 31 today – is of Nigerian and Irish ancestry and has used his public status to raise the profile of the Black Lives Matter movement in the fight against racism in today's society.
When given the opportunity to respond directly to the comments, Joshua said:“I respect every opponent and I respect Pulev. I wish him well during his preparation.”
But many of his fans took to social media and were quick to blast The Cobra.
One said: "You dirty racist."
Another replied: "I hope Anthony Joshua smashes the living daylight out of Pulev after that 'tan' comment."
A third added: "That’s a shameful 1970s comment. Awful."
Another wrote: "Not acceptable – ban him from boxing and replace him as AJ's next opponent. Great opportunity for boxing to show zero-tolerance stance vs racism."
One user commented: "Don’t care what anyone says, this is racist."
And a final person simply replied: "That is 100% racist."
It is not the first time Pulev has landed himself in hot water with his controversy.
In 2019 Pulev kissed a female reporter on the lips after beating Bogdan Dinu.
Jennifer Ravalo accused the boxer of grabbing her bottom off camera and left her feeling 'shocked and embarrassed'.
Pulev denied the claims and told reporters: "That's not true," before adding that she was 'not my type'.
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