Wladimir Klitschko has been ordered to defend his IBF heavyweight title against Kubrat Pulev, an unbeaten Bulgarian.
“That’s what I call a late birthday gift,” Pulev said on Thursday, having celebrated his 33rd birthday last Sunday.
Klitschko, the undisputed champion in the division, retained the IBF, WBA and WBO belts when he stopped Australian Alex Leapai in the fifth round two weeks ago. It was a mandatory WBO title defence.
“I was ringside when Wladimir defended his belts. It was a walk in the park for him against Leapai. When he meets me inside the ring, I will cause him real problems. I will show the fans worldwide that Klitschko is no invincible machine. I will fulfil my dream.”
Pulev’s promoter, Kalle Sauerland, said discussions had already been set in motion.
“The negotiations with Team Klitschko have already begun. We are excited to present a heavyweight bout in cooperation with K2 (Klitschko’s promoter), which is deserving of its heavyweight world championship status,” said Sauerland.
Pulez has won all 20 of his professional fights; 11 inside the distance. He is widely regarded as the “best of the rest” in the division.
He won a world amateur super-heavyweight bronze medal in 2005 and has beaten Tony Thompson, who has twice challenged for “world” titles and lost on points to Klitschko last year.
He has also stopped promising eastern Europeans Alexander Ustinov and Alexander Dimitrenko.
No date has been set for the clash but it may not necessarily happen in the 38-year-old Klitschko’s next bout. After beating Leapai, Klitschko – with 62 wins, 52 knockouts and three defeats in his 65-fight career – said he wanted to unify all the titles.
His brother Vitali held the WBC belt until retiring recently to concentrate on politics in Ukraine. Haiti-born Canadian Bermane Stiverne and American Chris Arreola will fight for that title on Saturday.
“It’s my dream to unify the four titles. I’ve never had the WBC belt,” Klitschko said after beating Leapai.
Leapai was seen as little more than a punching bag for Klitschko, but Pulev has a burgeoning reputation and is seen as a genuine threat.