Heavyweight contender Tony Thompson has had two shots at the heavyweight championship and would like a third, while Kubrat Pulev is just looking for his first opportunity. One of them will get their wish when they meet in a final title eliminator on Aug. 24 in Schwerin, Germany.
There was a question about whether the IBF would agree to sanction the bout as a final eliminator, but Chris Meyer of Sauerland Event, which promotes Pulev, told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the organization has signed off on the bout, which will produce a mandatory challenger for champion Wladimir Klitschko, who makes a different mandatory defense against Alexander Povetkin on Oct. 5 in Moscow.
"We now have received the sanction approval by the IBF," Meyer said. "We will continue with our plan to stage the fight on Aug. 24."
Pulev and Thompson both signed for the bout last week, but it was contingent on the organization agreeing to sanction it, which it did Tuesday.
"It's not something I could turn down," Thompson told ESPN.com on Tuesday, one day after he opened his training at the Keystone Boxing Gym in Temple Hills, Md. "It was a no-brainer for me. I saw some film of (Pulev) and he looks pretty good. He's fast and active. He's a pretty good heavyweight fighter. It should be a fight with good action."
The bout will take place on the card that includes former middleweight and super middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham, returning from losing his super middleweight title by fourth-round knockout to Robert Stieglitz in their March 23 rematch, facing Willbeforce Shihepo. The card will also include Juergen Braehmer making a defense of the European light heavyweight title against Stefano Abatangelo.
Pulev (17-0, 9 KOs), 32, a native of Bulgaria based in Germany, agreed last year to take part in a four-man box-off to determine Klitschko's mandatory challenger and stopped Alexander Ustinov in the 11th round in September to win the semifinal.
However, at various times he was supposed to face Tomasz Adamek or Tyson Fury in the final eliminator, but both fighters declined. After Adamek advanced to the final by beating Steve Cunningham in December, he pulled out of the box-off. Then Fury knocked out Steve Cunningham on April 20 in an eliminator and was supposed to face Pulev in the final eliminator. However, Fury also pulled out of the box-off, electing instead to take a higher-profile and more lucrative match with former titlist David Haye on Sept. 28.
Adamek then asked to be re-installed in the box-off, but the IBF declined and approved the Pulev-Thompson match. The 41-year-old Thompson (38-3, 26 KOs), of Washington, D.C., has already had two mandatory title shots at Klitschko, losing by 11th-round knockout in 2008 and by sixth-round knockout in 2012.
However, since the second loss to Klitschko last July, Thompson has scored back-to-back upset knockouts of heralded David Price, a 2008 British Olympic bronze medalist whom Klitschko spoke about as a future title challenger.
Twice Thompson went to Price's hometown of Liverpool, England, and knocked him out in exciting fights, in the second round in February and in the fifth round on July 6.
"I went there trying to make an opportunity for myself," Thompson said.
He did just that because Thompson, who is self-managed and does not have a promoter, said that Sauerland Event contacted him almost immediately after the second win against Price to try to set up the eliminator with Pulev.
"This will be a tough test for Pulev as he hasn't boxed since beating Ustinov in the first leg of the IBF eliminator (box-off)," Meyer said. "Thompson has again entered world stage after beating David Price twice. Thompson may be much older than Pulev, but has made quite a number of big bouts in his career. His only two losses in the last 13 years were to Wladimir Klitschko.
"The bout was made under the condition that the winner becomes IBF mandatory contender to face the winner of Wladimir Klitschko versus Alexander Povetkin. That's the big incentive for both camps."
Thompson's only other defeat came by four-round decision in his fifth pro fight in 2000.
"I think people kind of forgot I only had two losses to the heavyweight champ of the world (since 2000)," Thompson said.
"Once I beat a guy, Price, that people considered a threat to Wladimir's throne and was rated as the up-and-comer of the year, it opened a lot of eyes to what I am capable of.
"For me, this fight with Pulev is huge and I'm as excited as can be. Wladimir beat me twice and I can understand people being put off by a third fight, but for me it's the only thing. He is the heavyweight champ of the world so if you are trying to be champion you have to go after him."