Anthony Joshua celebrates after knockout out Wladimir Klitschko. Photo: Reuters / Peter Cziborra

LONDON - Anthony Joshua is "almost certain" to fight Kubrat Pulev next after Wladimir Klitschko retired on Thursday, with Cardiff’s Principality Stadium the front-runner to stage the bout this autumn.

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn had an agreement with the IBF, whose title belongs to Joshua, for the heavyweight champion to face Pulev if a Klitschko rematch collapsed.

With Klitschko announcing his departure, Hearn said that his intention is to stage the fight with Pulev on October 28 or November 11, with Cardiff under consideration for the October date and Las Vegas for November.

Cardiff is slightly more likely for what would be Joshua’s first fight since his remarkable win over Klitschko for the IBF and WBA belts in April. Hearn said: "We have an agreement in place with the IBF that if it isn’t Klitschko it will be Pulev. It will almost certainly be Pulev next.

"We need to sort out the final details but the venues don’t change. It will be Vegas or Cardiff, with Cardiff the frontrunner.

"The date will be the same as well - probably October 28 or November 11, because we would like AJ to fight again in February or March so he can have three fights in 2018."

Bulgarian Pulev lost an IBF title challenge to Klitschko in 2014 - his sole defeat in a career consisting of 26 bouts.

On Klitschko, who retires after a decade at the top of the heavyweight division, Hearn said: "We are disappointed from an event perspective because the rematch was huge, but from a personal perspective I am happy for Wladimir.

"He has had a tremendous career and leaves with everything he needs in life. I wish him nothing but the best."

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