Bulgarian boxer Kubrat Pulev has defended himself on social media after being slammed for kissing an unsuspecting reporter during a post-fight interview.
The 37-year-old was being interviewed in California after beating Bogdan Dinu with a seventh-round stoppage when the controversial moment occurred.
Pulev had earlier suffered a cut above the eye, which was still bleeding when he was talking to Vegas Sports Daily reporter Jenny SuShe.
She asked: “If Tyson Fury gets through Tom Schwarz, do you think you should have a shot?”
The boxer, who had been scheduled to face Anthony Joshua in October 2017 before an injury, replied ‘yes’ before planting a kiss on the clearly uncomfortable reporter.
In the face of a wave of criticism, Pulev has defended the kiss, saying he and SuShe are close friends.
“You may have seen a clip of me kissing a female reporter after I won my fight on Saturday night,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The reporter, Jenny is actually a friend of mine and after the interview, I gave her a kiss.
“Later that night she joined me and my other friends at my post-fight celebration — after our kiss we both laughed about it and thanked each other.
“There is really nothing more to this.”
For the most commented kiss in the world! pic.twitter.com/T1Ktlprff4
— Kubrat Pulev (@KubratPulev) March 26, 2019
However SuShe described the moment as ’embarrassing and strange’.
Iil embarrassing. Strange
— SuShe Art (@SuSheArt) March 25, 2019
SuShe has also removed a photo of herself and Pulev from before the fight that had previously been posted on her Instagram page.
‘Disturbing and astonishing’
Sirena Bergman of The Independent has been left furious over Pulev’s response.
“Pulev refuses to apologise, and the reasons he gives for why his actions are acceptable are astonishing,” she wrote.
“He says she’s “a friend”, that he was “elated”, and that later on that say she joined him for a celebration. It remains unclear how any of these things excuse sexual assault.
“It is of course disturbing to see a woman be forced into what appears to be unwanted sexual contact, but there’s something particularly despicable about it happening to her at her place of work.
“Women continue to struggle across the world to receive equal recognition, pay and treatment to men in the workplace.
“This becomes especially so in traditionally male-dominated environments, of which sports reporting remains one.
“The boxing industry must act to show that his kind of abusive behaviour will not be tolerated, and that it will stand up for women like SuShe, who deserve to exist in this space and feel safe, not be humiliated and degraded on camera, and forced to laugh it off.”
Bergman wasn’t the only one who labelled the kiss ‘sexual assault’.
This is not 'Alpha as f***', it's called sexual assault. This woman responds in the way too many women have to when they're afraid of men, it's called de-escalation. Any men that think this is acceptable behaviour, educate yourself. It isn't. Ever. https://t.co/ewb0IZ81dd
— Chris Lloyd (@ChrisLloydTV) March 24, 2019
Sexual assault shouldn’t be celebrated.
— HealthOverEverything (@poundaway) March 24, 2019
WTF totally unacceptable behaviour.
Anybody tried to do that to my wife or daughter in future even if so called World Heavyweight Champion I'd put him in his place.
— CM Management (@CM__Management) March 24, 2019
— Adam Catterall (@AdamCatterall) March 24, 2019
That’s got to be one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in ages.
— James Jackson (@Doublejayz72) March 24, 2019
100%. You can see him eyeing her up the whole time, it’s so creepy. Totally unacceptable.
— Mark J. Douglas (@markjdouglas) March 24, 2019
Sexual assault is alpha af??? Lmaaaaaaoooooo boxing twitter needs help
— Ré (@Lanr3zy) March 24, 2019