Anthony Joshua is optimistic a fight with Wladimir Klitschko will take place after promoter Eddie Hearn admitted an agreement is close to being reached. The IBF world heavyweight champion is due to defend his title for a second time before the end of the year, a bout that could yet come against the Ukrainian.
Klitschko was due to face Tyson Fury on 29 October in a rematch for the WBA and IBO belts, but the latter has been declared "medically unfit" and could have his licence revoked by the British Boxing Board of Control after he admitted to taking cocaine to deal with depression. It leaves the 40-year-old without an opponent, raising the prospect of a clash with Joshua.
The 26-year-old has a 100% knock-out record from his 17 career fights and won his maiden world title earlier in the year after beating Charles Martin. The Olympic gold medallist has only defended the crown once, overcoming Dominic Breazeale in June, but could face his biggest challenge yet in the form of Klitschko, who has contested 68 fights during his 20-year career.
Matchroom chief Hearn has talked up the fight ever since Fury withdrew from the rematch with Klitschko, and now admitted there is a "70%" chance of the clash taking place. Joshua is confident the fight will happen and believes it will "get people's hairs off their skin".
"It would be amazing for boxing in general, for British boxing, for the people that have wanted to see a general step up in class," Joshua told Sky Sports. "It's an interesting fight. It's definitely one people have got interested in just by mentioning it. It ticks all the boxes for me at this present time. I think there's a few fights the world of boxing wants.
"A heavyweight fight with a former champion and a current champion is a fight that definitely ticks that box that will get people's hairs off their skin. There's a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. We're dealing with a legendary sportsman in Klitschko and a current champion so there's egos on the table.
"We've got to put that aside and hopefully we can definitely get this deal done. Eddie does a good job and he's a fantastic promoter. I've got to look at my team, my team are guiding me and they've got to be happy with everything as well. I'm confident Eddie's sending over the right messages and getting the right things in place for this fight to take place."
Joseph Parker is the mandatory challenger to Joshua's IBF title but with the New Zealander targeting a fight with Andy Ruiz in an attempt to force his way into the reckoning to challenge for Fury's WBO title – which he could be stripped of due to an anti-doping violation.
Second in line Kubrat Pulev is understood to be against the idea of taking on Joshua on the pre-arranged date of 26 November, meaning former world champion David Haye could be thrust into the fray. Haye will make his belated return to competitive action, following routine wins over Mark de Mori and Arnold Gjergjaj, on 10 December in order to stake his claim for another shot at a world title.