Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko are both keen on staging a repeat of their classic heavyweight unification title fight after promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed a rematch is close to being agreed. Joshua claimed the IBF and WBA titles following an 11th round knock-out at Wembley Stadium – but one hurdle stands between the pair and a possible rematch.
The 27-year-old Joshua is expected to be allowed to skip a mandatory defence of his WBA title against Luiz Ortiz, but could yet have to face number one contender Kubrat Pulev for the IBF crown. The team representing the London 2012 Olympic gold medallist has submitted an appeal to the governing body to delay the fight so that Joshua can face Klitschko for a second time in 2017.
"There's the IBF convention this week, we've put in a 'special exception request' to fight Klitschko next," Matchroom chief Hearn told iFL TV. "As we will do with the WBA as well. The WBA is a little bit more clear, we'll be allowed an exception request, whether we're allowed one with the IBF; I think we're favourite but we're not a shoo-in."
"We want to fight Klitschko next. The noise from Klitschko's camp is – that's what's going to happen. We're looking into the numbers, where it is going to take place, the date it is going to take place and those are all things that are being discussed over the next few weeks.
"I think more than likely [Joshua will face Klitschko] and if not it is Pulev. Kalle Sauerland wants Pulev to fight Joshua but he also doesn't want to lose that fight. They've objected to the IBF request and we'll see how they rule. Pulev is not going to go away. We are having Pulev, whether that is next or the one after.
"Hopefully we can deal with the mandatories and the super fights and hopefully there is a bit of both. The indication we have had from the Klitschko camp is that this fight will happen again and we want it to happen again and the biggest fight outside of the UK and the Fury fight."
Cardiff's Principality Stadium, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and venues in Dubai and Nigeria could host the bout later in the year. But a return to Wembley – which hosted the first fight in front of a post-war record 90,000 crowd - in late autumn or the winter is unlikely due to the ground not having a fully retractable roof.
Should Joshua overcome Pulev, Ortiz or Klitschko in his next fight then an all-British clash with Tyson Fury is in the offing for the spring of 2018. Fury is currently awaiting a decision from the United Kingdom Anti-Doping agency following an investigation into seperate failed and missed drugs tests last year. The Bolton boxer has been out of the sport since beating Klitschko in Dusseldorf in November 2015.