Heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko, who is contemplating retirement and has not yet commited to continuing to fight, has nonetheless engaged challenger Bermane Stiverne in negotiations for their mandatory bout.
Klitschko manager Bernd Boente told ESPN.com on Wednesday that adviser Shelly Finkel has been in contact with Stiverne promoter Don King to talk about the fight and the parameters of a deal.
Asked whether the talks meant that Klitschko had decided to fight on, Boente said, "Let's see how the negotiations go."
Boente added that even if Klitschko does decide to continue fighting that the time frame for the fight was not certain.
"No idea about the timing. We have to discuss that with (our) TV (partners)," Boente said.
Besides being 41 and perhaps slowing down a little, Klitschko is heavily involved in politics in his native Ukraine and has said he is considering retirement to focus
on his political career.
But at some point, Klitschko will have to make a decision. The WBC, whose title Klitschko holds, sent out a letter this week to the Klitschko and Stiverne camps oordering them to negotiate a deal for the mandatory defense.
The sides are free to negotiate until June 3. If they don't make a deal, the WBC will conduct a purse bid that day at its offices in Mexico City with the promotional rights to the fight being auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Stiverne (23-1-1, 20 KOs), 34, a native of Haiti based in Las Vegas, became Klitschko's mandatory challenger on April 27, when he won a lopsided decision against Chris Arreola, who had been stopped by Klitschko in the 10th round of a 2009 world title fight. Stiverne dropped Arreola and broke his nose in the third round, and he was never the same for the remainder of the bout.
Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) has made nine title defenses since coming out of a nearly four-year retirement caused by back and leg injuries to reclaim his old title by knocking out Samuel Peter in the eighth round in October 2008. Klitschko's most recent defense came in September, when he dropped Manuel Charr in the second round and stopped him on cuts in the fourth round.
"We are quite pleased to receive this letter as it represents an important step in the right direction towards our ultimate goal which is the WBC heavyweight championship," said Camille Estephan of Eye of the Tiger Management, which manages Stiverne. "This is an opportunity to rewrite history in getting the most prestigious title in the sport.
"'We are very pleased with Bermane's spectacular victory in the eliminator against Chris Arreola yet not satisfied. We will only be satisfied when we achieve our ultimate goal, which is bringing the belt back to North America from one of the best heavyweights of all time, Vitali Klitschko."