On March 23, boxer Kubrat Pulev recorded perhaps the biggest win of his career, as he scored a TKO victory over Bogdan Dinu in California to improve to 27-1. The triumph positioned Pulev, a 38-year-old native of Bulgaria, for potential title fights in the near future.
Then came his post-match interview, which was conducted by a female reporter. At the end of the on-camera Q&A session, Pulev grabbed the reporter by the face and kissed her on the lips.
The reporter did not consent and has since filed a lawsuit against Pulev, and the California State Athletic Commission responded by suspending Pulev for six months and ordering him to complete a sensitivity training program as a condition of any future reinstatement. The Nevada Athletic Commission is also honoring the suspension.
To meet his mandated requirement, Pulev and his Las Vegas-based management reached out to UNLV. Last month, Pulev participated in a two-hour seminar facilitated by Barrett Morris, UNLV’s Title IX coordinator.
Morris led the course, which also included input from UNLV students as well as athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois. NAC executive director Bob Bennett and Bob Arum of Top Rank (Pulev’s boxing promoter) were also present for the seminar.
According to Pulev, the course made a lasting impression.
“UNLV and Barrett Morris created an opportunity for me to take the class and have an open discussion and learn,” Pulev said. “They went through the program step by step and explained to me. I learned that there is a fine line that you should never cross, and I crossed that line. I made a mistake and I learned from it.”
In addition to education about various forms of consent and the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, Pulev also learned how to deal with the consequences of his actions.
“Now it’s about how you respond,” Morris said. “One of the things Pulev did after our training was he went and posted something [on social media] saying he was wrong, and then he also asked that his fans not chime in with negative things about the reporter. Those are the important steps after you make a mistake.”
Pulev said he realized he was in the wrong from the very beginning.
“I knew before the incident,” Pulev said. “I knew this is a mistake. I know this. But I did it because I was happy and very excited. But this is not an excuse for what I did. I do it, and now I understand that while I am happy and I do something happy, for the other side this is maybe not happy, not so funny.”
Pulev’s management said that there is no specific timetable for his reinstatement, but that he hopes to fight again in the fall. As a contender for the IBF title, he could be in line for a big fight – and a big pay day – if and when he is allowed to return to the ring.
Morris believes that Pulev has changed for the better.
“I am sure that Pulev will never be in this situation again,” Morris said. “I think he’s learned. I judge that from where he was before the training started versus after the training and how he can articulate what he did as inappropriate. Although he’s participating in this thing, he has been active. He wants to be involved.”
On July 3, Pulev was back on the UNLV campus to take part in a Women in Journalism panel at the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. Two female reporters served on the panel, as did several female professors and administrators. About 30 students were in attendance.
Pulev’s said he learned from his fellow panelists, and that he hoped the conversation about sexual harassment will continue on a wider scale.
“This was a good learning experience,” he said. “I think my mistake can help people learn not to do this. This is a big mistake. Now people can speak about it.”
Morris said Pulev can’t change the past, but he can make a difference for the better by being an advocate for women.
“No matter what, he’s always going to be attached to this,” Morris said. “If you google Pulev, this is going to come up. So it’s very important for him to continue to be a champion for fairness and civil rights.”