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The Bulgarian, set to fight AJ in December, was asked for a verdict on his rival. "His strengths? I'd say he has a very powerful punch undeniably," said Pulev, as reported on Sky Sports.
"What are his other strengths? His tan is better than mine."
Joshua, who turned 31 today, is a black British athlete with Nigerian and Irish ancestry. Whatever Pulev's intention, his quote is clearly poorly judged and has been branded "shameful" and "100% racist" by boxing fans on Twitter.
Another person pointed out: "A lot of non-black people saying whether it is or isn't racist... I can assure you no black person likes this joke whether it's at school, work or by an opponent. He didn't need to bring up his skin colour at all but he did, and that's the problem."
Some fight fans have defended Pulev, pointing out it's unlikely he was trying to disparage his opponent with a racist insult. It's unknown how many of those people have ever had their skin colour referenced in a work environment or by someone planning to fight them in two months.
The 39-year-old may well have been attempting a light-hearted comment, which has gone badly wrong, but he is no stranger to controversy.
Last year, Pulev suddenly kissed reporter Jennifer Ravalo on the lips during an interview, after his knockout victory over Bogdan Dinu.
Pulev dismissed the incident afterwards, claiming the pair were friends. Yet Ravalo later accused the boxer of grabbing her bottom off camera and said she was "shocked and embarrassed" by the experience.
In the ring, the heavyweight's sole professional loss to Wladimir Klitschko came in 2014. Since then, he's scored victories over Brits Hughie Fury and Derek Chisora.
Now Pulev faces the 31-year-old Joshua on 12 December, in a heavyweight showdown that really did not require this kind of publicity in the build-up.
All imagery: PA Images
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