Hughie Fury beaten by Pulev as Joshua hopes are dashed

Kubrat Pulev became the IBF number one contender with a comfortable points victory over Hughie Fury in Bulgaria.

Hughie Fury needed a knockout in the final round to have any hope of victory, but it did not come   -  GETTY IMAGES

Hughie Fury's hopes of a heavyweight bout against Anthony Joshua was left in tatters after he was beaten by Kubrat Pulev by unanimous decision in Sofia.

Heading to Bulgaria with the aim of turning in a performance that would secure a fight with Joshua, Fury (21-2) was undone by an early cut that put Pulev (26-1) in the driving seat and a home victory never looked in doubt.

The Bulgarian consequently became the IBF's number one contender and will get another chance to take on Joshua, having pulled out of a scheduled bout last year with a shoulder injury.

Fury held his own early on in an intimidating atmosphere, but Pulev came forth from a cagey start to land some punishing left jabs.

One blow opened up a cut to Fury's eyelid and the Briton, having retreated to his corner at the end of the second, recognised the need to come out of his shell and attempt to end the contest early.

An aggressive approach merely prompted more heavy punches from Pulev, though, and the Bulgarian looked for his opponent's eye at every opportunity.

Fury changed his tactics again from the start of the fifth and looked to invite punches before landing on the counter, but not until the eighth was there a flurry of action and a right hand that had Pulev rocking for the first time.

But the Bulgarian stood firm and the crowd were soon on their feet when their man went back on the attack, with Fury wobbled in the ninth and again in the 10th.

Fury needed a knockout in the final round to have any hope of victory, but it did not come and Pulev ended the evening on the front foot before celebrating with his supporters.