By Jake Donovan
Wladimir Klitschko is less than two weeks removed from his latest title defense—a 5th round drubbing of Alex Leapai—yet has already been given his next assignment.
For once, news of a mandatory title fight is good for the boxing public, as the reigning heavyweight king has been ordered to next defend against unbeaten top contender Kubrat Pulev.
The fight was ordered by the International Boxing Federation (IBF), for whom Pulev (20-0, 11KO) became the mandatory challenger following his points win over Tony Thompson last August. Getting to that point proved problematic, as Pulev saw fights with Tomasz Adamek and Tyson Fury fall by the wayside, resulting in an 11-month layoff while waiting for the right to eventually fight for the title.
A lengthy wait was still required even when being named the number-one contender; as Klitschko holds multiple alphabet belts in addition to the true lineal crown, such a juggling act comes with multiple mandatory challenger obligations.
With that, Pulev had to sit and watch as Alexander Povetkin tried and failed last October, followed by Leapai's abysmal eftort this past April. Having kept busy and also celebrated a birthday, the unbeaten Bulgarian is now finally up next.
"That's what I call a late birthday gift," says Pulev, who turned 33 years old on Sunday. "I was ringside when Wladimir defended his belts (on April 26). It was a walk in the park for him against Leapai.
"When Klitschko meets me inside the ring, I will cause him real problems to say the least. I will show the fans worldwide that Klitschko is no invincible machine and fulfill my dream."
No date or venue has yet been established. The two sides will have 30 days to negotiate terms for a fight, otherwise it will go to a purse bid.
Klitschko regained a piece of the heavyweight crown in April '06, recently celebrating an uninterrupted eight-year stay as champ. Overall, he has made 16 consecutive alphabet title defenses, including nine lineal championship defenses since winning the World heavyweight crown with his June '09 stoppage win over Ruslan Chagaev.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox