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Anthony Joshua granted exception for likely Wladimir Klitschko rematch

Although former heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko has not expressly said he will exercise his contractual right to an immediate rematch with unified titleholder Anthony Joshua, the camps are proceeding as though the fight is happening, and one of the issues they needed to take care of has been settled.

The International Boxing Federation on Tuesday evening approved Joshua's request for an exception to his mandatory defense against Kubrat Pulev in order to face Klitschko again with the organization's title on the line, and it notified both camps.

Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) retained the IBF belt for the third time, and also won the vacant World Boxing Association crown, by 11th-round knockout of Klitschko in their epic battle -- the leading fight of the year contender -- before 90,000 at Wembley Stadium in London on April 29.

Klitschko (64-5, 54 KOs), who lost his second fight in a row after a nearly 10-year title reign and 18 successful defenses, has the right to a rematch in his contract -- as did Joshua had he lost. Although Klitschko said he would take his time to think about what he wanted to do in the immediate aftermath of the bout, he has not stopped his team from working on the particulars related to the rematch.

The 41-year-old Klitschko did say after the fight that he if he continues to box, he is not interested in any fight other than the rematch with Joshua, 27, of England.

Less than two weeks after the fight, Joshua promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing filed the paperwork necessary to request an exception to the mandatory defense, and it was granted -- but with the stipulation that the bout must take place by Dec. 2 and that the winner has to face Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs), 36, of Bulgaria, in his next bout, with no unification fight trumping the order.

Pulev, the former European champion, got a world title opportunity against Klitschko in 2014 and suffered a brutal fifth-round knockout that was the ESPN.com knockout of the year.

Joshua-Klitschko II taking place by Dec. 2 should not be an issue, because the working date, although not set in stone, is Oct. 28. There is no set site for the rematch.

Hearn told Sky Sports in the United Kingdom that there has been interest in hosting the fight from around the world, including venues in Nigeria, where Joshua's family is from; Dubai; the United States; and Cardiff, Wales. Many consider Cardiff to be the front-runner because Millennium Stadium -- which could seat around 80,000 for a fight -- has a retractable roof that would be important at that time of year, due to the weather. That is one of the reasons open-air Wembley Stadium is not under consideration.

The April fight was hugely hyped but more than lived up to it. Joshua knocked Klitschko down in the fifth round but was reeling by the end of the round, as Klitschko mounted a huge comeback. Then Ukraine's Klitschko knocked Joshua down in the sixth round with the powerful right hand that had ended so many other fights. But Joshua survived and rallied to knock Klitschko down twice more in the 11th round before the dramatic fight was stopped.