Kubrat Pulev, a Bulgarian heavyweight boxer who kissed a female reporter on the lips while she was interviewing him in the ring last March, was unanimously cleared to fight again by members of the California State Athletic Commission, which warned that another offense would bring a lifetime ban from North American competition.
Jennifer Ravalo, a Vegas Sports Daily contributor who uses the byline Jenny SuShe, was conducting a video interview after Pulev’s heavyweight victory over Bogdan Dinu in Costa Mesa when he reached for her face and planted a kiss on her lips. She also alleged that he groped her. Although she smiled as she wrapped up the interview, Ravalo called for his suspension, saying at the time that she was “immediately shocked and embarrassed and I did not know how to respond.”
Video of the incident was widely quickly shared and Pulev apologized during Monday’s hearing in San Diego.
“I’m very sorry for this kiss,” the 38-year-old fighter said (via Reuters). “And I must to say to Ms. Ravalo, please, excuse me and sorry for the kiss, because it was my mistake, 100 percent.”
Pulev, who was suspended in May for six months for conduct considered a “discredit to boxing,” also was fined $2,500 and ordered to attend a sexual harassment awareness course. In lifting the punishment, one commissioner told Pulev to “continue to learn from this please, sir, and talk about it to others. We could use your help on that.” Pulev can now reapply for his license, but further offenses will bring a lifetime ban from fighting in North America, the commission said.
“It’s disappointing he didn’t do the full six months,” Ravalo told the New York Daily News. “I don’t know if he’s really sorry. I won’t know until I see how he acts.”
To fulfill the training requirement, Pulev and his managers, based in Las Vegas, contacted UNLV and he participated in a Women in Journalism panel July 3 at the school’s UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs. “I knew before the incident,” Pulev said (via the Las Vegas Sun). “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.”
The fighter whose nickname is The Cobra had just improved to 27-1 with the biggest victory of his career when the incident occurred. In May, he called Ravalo a friend and tweeted about what he said was “the most commented kiss in the world.” “The reporter, Jenny, is actually a friend of mine and after the interview, I was so elated, I gave her a kiss,” he tweeted. “Later that night, she joined me and my other friends at my post-fight celebration. On the video, after our kiss, we both laughed about it and thanked each other. There really is nothing more to this.”
Ravalo denied that friendship during a news conference with attorney Gloria Allred in May. “I was immediately shocked and embarrassed, and didn’t know how to respond. Next, I walked to the table to put my items in my backpack. He grabbed both of my buttocks and squeezed with both of his hands,” she said in a statement at the time. “Then he walked away without saying anything to me and laughed.
“It made me feel uncomfortable and frustrated that Kubrat Pulev would treat me in such an unprofessional manner. I did not encourage or consent to Mr. Pulev grabbing my face, kissing me, or grabbing my backside. I was there at the event covering the boxing match as a professional member of the press. Kissing a woman on her lips without her consent and grabbing her is not acceptable.”
Ravalo, whose bio on the Vegas Sports Daily website describes her as “web host, contributor, writer and sushi chef,” said she had not met Pulev before the weigh-in on the eve of the fight, but said she did attend the post-fight party because it gave her “an opportunity to interview more fighters” and interacted with Pulev.
“He acted like nothing happened but later at the party he asked me to remove the kiss from the interview [video],” Ravalo said. “I did not remove it and instead posted it because I wanted people to see what he had done to me. I wanted him to be accountable. I didn’t want him to get away with it.
“What he did to me was disgusting. I felt humiliated. No woman should be treated this way. Mr. Pulev and I were not friends and we were not in a romantic relationship. He had no right to kiss me.”
In a statement to CNN in March, the CSAC said that Pulev had been “notified that, before he will be licensed to fight in California again, he must appear in front of the commission and demonstrate that he conforms to this principle of respect.” By a 6-0 vote, the commissioners determined he had done so. “This was a good learning experience,” Pulev said during the seminar. “I think my mistake can help people learn not to do this. This is a big mistake. Now people can speak about it.”
Since the incident, Ravalo, who attended the hearing, said she has been bullied online and falsely accused by Pulev’s agent, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum. In an iFL TV clip posted in June on YouTube, he claimed she had been “fooling around” with Pulev during training and “acting as his semi-girlfriend.” He also claimed that video showed Ravalo giving a lapdance to a member of Pulev’s group during the post-fight party. Allred called that “blatantly false” and noted that both the fighter and Ravalo told the commission that they met the day before the Dinu fight. Arum, who noted in the interview that he has daughters and granddaughters and is “sensitive to real sexual harassment,” has not commented since Monday’s decision by the CSAC.
“Mr. Arum cares little about sexual harassment at all,” Ravalo told the commission before the vote, citing his recent comment that he did not believe “that a 6-foot-4, 250-pound boxer grabbing the face of a 5-foot-2 reporter and forcibly kissing her with his bloody mouth was sexual harassment. I would like to see if he would think differently if a large, bloody man did the same to him without his consent.”