Hearn confirms Joshua set to face Pulev following Klitschko retirement

Updated: 

Anthony Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn, has confirmed the heavyweight world champion is likely to make a mandatory title defence against Kubrat Pulev following Wladimir Klitschko's retirement from boxing.

Joshua stopped Klitschko in an epic encounter at Wembley Stadium in April and had been widely anticipated to face the 41-year-old Ukrainian in a rematch later this year in Las Vegas.

However, Hearn will now seek to finalise a fight between Joshua and Pulev - the IBF's mandatory challenger - after Klitschko confirmed on Thursday that he has brought his illustrious career to an end.

Hearn told Sky Sports News: "When the IBF cleared the Klitschko rematch it was under the proviso that if it's not Klitschko it must be Pulev, so we've already got talks in place with Kalle Sauerland [Pulev's promoter].

"Part of me is quite pleased we can move forward and draw a line under this. There was always the worry with Klitschko's age that we could announce the fight and he could get injured in camp, various bits and pieces like that.

"At Anthony's stage of his career, as young as he is, he's really raring to go already. He's been ticking over in the gym, he wants to start his camp and he's been calling me every day saying 'will he [Klitschko] take the fight?'

"Now, finally, we've got an answer, so I think fight fans are going to see an announcement sooner than they would have seen with a Klitschko fight. A line's drawn, we can move on with our mandatory challenger and move towards more belts in the division."

A dominant figure in the heavyweight division who won 64 of his 69 professional fights, Klitschko performed admirably in defeat to Joshua - climbing off the canvas to floor the Briton before eventually being stopped in the 11th round.

Hearn added: "It's unusual to bow out on a loss where you've probably gained more respect for that loss than you have for your entire career. I think that's probably one of the driving factors that's made him say 'I'm going to bow out' after an epic night.

"The way he acted in and out of the ring - he's a really nice man. Part of me, as much as I wanted to go to Las Vegas for this fight, is also pleased for Wladimir Klitschko that he can leave this sport with a very healthy bank account and, more importantly, with his health intact after a great career."