David Haye has received a boost in his bid to reclaim a world title after the IBF announced the British fighter is now one of the next in line to challenge for the belt.
Although the 36-year-old is set to take on Tony Bellew in March, Haye has also had his eyes set on IBF heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua, with the two recently trading verbal blows and teasing a potential showdown.
And with the former WBA heavyweight champion sitting just behind mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in the IBF rankings, Haye may have a clearer path back to gold than first thought.
IBF Championships chairman Lindsey E Tucker told Sky Sports: "Joshua asked to fight Eric Molina, we approved that fight with the condition that the winner had to fight Pulev.
"They came back with this unification, which takes priority over the mandatory, so we have to wait.
"Whoever wins between Klitschko and Joshua, we're expecting them to fight Pulev next."
With the WBA also expected to force the winner of Joshua/Klitschko to face Luis Ortiz, the champion could then be required to vacate one of the IBF or WBA title.
Commenting on the possibility of a vacant belt, Tucker said: "Under our rules, it's the two highest rated available fighters. Pulev who is sitting at No 2, he would be one of them.
"Whoever is sitting at No 3, they would get the first choice, or refusal, and we would continue down the list.
"Klitschko is No 3 and Haye is No 4. Theoretically yes, it would go to Pulev and Haye, assuming Haye was available and wasn't contracted to fight somebody else."
Haye is looking to reclaim a world title after losing his WBA heavyweight crown to Klitschko back in 2012.
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