Wladimir Klitschko announced his immediate retirement from boxing yesterday, ruling out a lucrative rematch with Anthony Joshua.
The 41-year-old former world heavyweight champion had been considering a second Joshua bout but will instead bow out with April’s dramatic defeat by the IBF and WBA champion as his last fight.
Joshua is likely to instead fight mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, of Bulgaria, while Klitschko ensures his legacy remains intact as one of the finest heavyweights in history.
Klitschko said: “I deliberately took a few weeks to make my decision, to make sure I had enough distance from the [Joshua] fight at Wembley.
“As an amateur and a professional boxer, I have achieved everything I dreamed of, and now I want to start my second career after sports.”
After an unbeaten run that lasted 11 years, Klitschko lost his final two fights, conceding his IBF, WBA and WBO titles when outpointed by Tyson Fury, then being stopped by Joshua in the 11th round.
Even in the second of those defeats, the Ukrainian recovered from a fifth-round knockdown to heavily drop Joshua for the first time in his professional career.
That final fight was widely considered the most entertaining at heavyweight since the glamour era of the 1990s, and was also perhaps the biggest since Lennox Lewis overcame Mike Tyson in 2002.
Speaking immediately after the Joshua defeat, Klitschko said he would consider his future and that the only fight that could tempt him to continue would be a rematch with the 27-year-old Briton.
In the build-up to April’s fight trainer Johnathon Banks also said that if he felt his fighter was no longer able to perform at the level he long had, he would encourage him to retire. Joshua’s promoters Matchroom had the logistics in place for an 11 November date at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, but despite impressing at Wembley, Klitschko has quit before a significant decline.
“I would have never imagined that I would have such a long and incredibly successful boxing career,” he continued in his statement.
“I’m very thankful for this. Thanks to everyone who has always supported me. Especially my family, my team and my many fans.
“It was the best choice of a profession I could have made.
“At some point in our lives, we need to or just want to switch our careers and get ourselves ready for the next chapter. Now it’s my turn.”
While at his peak, around the time of his one-sided, 2011 victory over Britain’s David Haye, Klitschko held three of the four world heavyweight titles, at a time when his older brother Vitali was the WBC champion.