(Reuters) – IBF, WBA and IBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua says he is eager for a rematch with Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko after April’s thrilling bout but will face Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev if Klitschko decides to retire.
Joshua beat Klitschko after 11 rounds to extend his unbeaten streak to 19 fights, and a clause in their contracts allows the defeated fighter to ask for a rematch. But the 41-year-old is yet to make decision about his future.
The 27-year-old has to fight Pulev, who is the mandatory challenger for the IBF title, and Joshua is ready to fight the 36-year-old if the Klitschko rematch does not take place.
“The ball is in Klitschko’s court,” Joshua told Sky Sports. “I am going to continue my career. It is up to him whether he wants to have a rematch or whether he says, ‘You know what, that’s enough’.
“But I think, whatever he decides to do, we all respect him, and plan B would be look at the option with Pulev, and where we would fight him and the options available for the Pulev fight.
“Now I have the IBF, WBA and IBO (belts) there are obligations with mandatory challenges, and Pulev is one.
“So either it will be Klitschko, which would be great, or Pulev, which would be great. I am not bothered either way.”
The Briton is hopeful that a showdown in Las Vegas will tempt Klitschko to opt for a rematch.
“Vegas – it is the Mecca of boxing, and this is an opportunity,” Joshua said.
“People wouldn’t mind traveling, and it is a nice big hurrah for himself. He has achieved so much, does he have the motivation?
“I think Vegas will get his blood boiling again.”
(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson)