Wladimir Klitschko revealed that David Haye and Alexander Povetkin are the leading candidates to get a shot at his IBF and WBO heavyweight titles following his late KO victory over Tony Thompson.
The 32-year-old Ukrainian dumped the American challenger in the 11th round of their meeting in Hamburg when a vicious right to the head knocked his opponent down and out.
Next up could be top-ranked Russian Povetkin, but Klitschko has also recognised Haye’s strong interest to get in the ring with him.
Asked whether he would grant Thompson a rematch, Klitschko said: “Why? There are other people waiting in the line.
“David Haye is one of them. He was here in Hamburg and he wants to fight me. He is one of the candidates.”
More likely, however, is a meeting with 2004 Olympic gold medal winner Povetkin, who takes on Taurus Sykes next Saturday.
“He is the IBF number one and he is waiting.” said Klitschko. “He fights next Saturday and we will see in the next weeks who will be my opponent.”
Klitschko’s manager Bernd Bonte left little doubt that a showdown with the 2004 Olympic gold medal winner, who edged out Chris Byrd and Eddie Chambers in a four-way elimination tournament, is on the horizon.
“Next up is the mandatory defence against Povetkin,” Bonte stated. “That is the fight that will come next.”
Klitschko admitted that defending his three titles – he also holds the IBO belt - gets more and more difficult each time he steps in the ring.
“Every opponent will give all he has because there are three belts at stake,” he said.
“It is not an easy task to defend the titles – you can see that. It has been a while since I last had a black eye.
“It was a great fight and I am pleased I won that clearly. Thompson did very well defensively.”
While the Ukrainian excelled in controlling the pace and distance of the fight and constantly fired in his huge right hands, Thompson also landed a few southpaw lefts.
With the fight progressing, however, he ran out of steam and was finally caught by what he described as a “perfect shot”.
He stated: “I am not used to losing and it really hurts. I will go back to the gym, try to get a little healthier, stronger and better and wait for the next shot. Klitschko was stronger than I was but I will be back.”