Wladimir Klitschko has sensationally retired from boxing - ending hopes of a rematch with WBA and IBF champion heavyweight Anthony Joshua. The Ukrainian was expected to face Joshua for a second time later this year but has instead called time on his 69-fight professional career stretching back 21 years.
The 41-year-old hangs up his gloves with a record of 64 wins from 69 fights, his final bout coming as he was stopped by Joshua in a classic contest at Wembley Stadium in front of a post-war record crowd of 90,000. The pair were expected to meet in a mandatory rematch on 11 November in Las Vegas, with an announcement due next week, but the decision thwarts any hope of a repeat.
During over two decades at the summit of boxing, Klitschko twice reigning as world champion - the second stretch lasting nine years and seven months - and exits the sport as one of its legendary modern-day figures. His career ended with successive losses to two British fighters - Tyson Fury, who has since retired himself - to end his near-decade long reign as heavyweight champion, and then Joshua last April.
"I have achieved everything I dream of, and now I want to start my second career after sports," he said. "At some point in our lives we need to switch our careers and get ready for the next chapter. I am not an exception to this. Now is my turn."
Klitschko's first spell as world champion began in 2000 when he beat Chris Byrdto win the WBO crown. Defeat to Corrie Sanders ended that reign but he was soon atop of the heavyweight division once more after overcoming Byrd for a second time to claim the IBF and IBO belts.
Victory sparked a run of 19 successive wins, which including beating the likes of Hasim Rahman, David Haye, Tony Thompson and finally Bryant Jennings - the last success of his career - via a unanimous decision in April 2015. Points wins had now come to define the later stages of Klitschko's career, performances which came in for criticism due to his ponderous demeanor and the insipid standard of his opponents.
His second reign as world champion was ended in stunning fashion after he was shocked by Briton Fury in Dusseldorf in November 2015, though attempts to earn a rematch with the Bolton boxer twice collapsed. The timing of the second cancellation setup the tantalizing prospect of a clash with Joshua, who was then the IBF champion and 13 years Klitschko's junior.
Both fighters put on a memorable performance in front of a record crowd for a fight in the United Kingdom, with Klitschko being floored in the fifth round before putting Joshua on the canvass for the first time in his career in the sixth. The London 2012 Olympic champion rallied however and following a blistering upper-cut - one of the iconic images of the night - the fight was stopped as Joshua was crowned the unified heavyweight champion.
A rematch clause was inserted in the original contract between the two and Klitschko was expected to agree to the stipulation, with the bout touted to take place either in Las Vegas or Cardiff's Principality Stadium. Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn were anticipating an imminent announcement regarding the bout but the news abruptly ends all hopes of a repeat of the momentous bout.