Anthony Joshua is set to face Kubrat Pulev in his next fight later this year after Wladimir Klitschko ruled out a rematch with the British-born Nigerian on Thursday, The Express reports.
Joshua beat Klitschko to defend his IBF and win the WBA heavyweight titles, getting off the canvas to score a remarkable 11th-round knockout.
And the Ukrainian had been considering activating a rematch clause for the last three months but on Thursday confirmed that he would hang up his gloves.
The decision clears the way for Joshua to fight Pulev, who has lost just once in 26-fight professional career and is the top-ranked IBF challenger.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn had applied to the boxing authorities for an exemption from facing his mandatory so that he could fight Klitschko, although that will now not be granted.
Instead, the 41-year-old will pursue projects outside the ring after a storied 69-fight career.
“Twenty-seven years ago I started my journey in sport,” Klitschko said.
“It was the best choice of a profession I could have made.
“Because of this choice I have travelled the world, learned new languages, created business, built intellectual properties, helped people in need.
“At some point in our lives we need to switch our careers and get ourselves ready for the next chapter – obviously I am not an exception to this.
“I am expecting and hoping my next career, which I have already been planning and working on for some years, will be at least as successful as the previous one, if not more successful.”
Pulev has already fought Klitschko, who handed the Hungarian his only career defeat when they clashed in Hamburg three years ago.
The 36-year-old has recovered to win his five fights since and earn challenger status for the IBF title with a second shot at the belt on the horizon.
Hearn had “penciled in” November 11 in Las Vegas for Joshua’s fight with Klitschko but that seems an unlikely venue for the Pulev bout, given the Hungarian’s limited profile in the US having never fought outside continental Europe.
Among his future projects, Klitschko will now turn his attention to the hotel industry, according to AFP.
He is involved in a chain of luxury hotels – 11 Mirrors – in Ukraine and has plans to expand.
“We are concentrating on expanding with 11 Mirrors to Germany and the USA,” Klitschko told German finance magazine Euro am Sonntag.
“I like to spend a lot of money on the training of my employees.
“There is no better return on investment than investing money in its team.”