FORMER WBC world cruiserweight champion Grigory Drozd has announced he will exercise his right to face new champion Tony Bellew later this year.

Drozd was relieved of the belt after being unable to defend it enough due to injury, and Bellew picked up the vacant strap by hammering Ilunga Makabu in three rounds at the weekend.

The WBC made Drozd their ‘champion in recess’ which gave him the right to face the winner of Bellew-Makabu once he has recovered from injury.

“First of all, I’d like to congratulate Tony Bellew on his big win. Ilunga Makabu is a very strong fighter and defeating him is a great achievement,” Drozd said.

“I’m happy that while I was out with the injury, the WBC belt wasn’t put on a shelf and was contested in such a spectacular fight between two worthy contenders. That’s exactly what I wanted after I was injured and had to postpone my next fight.

“The Champion in Recess title gives me the right to fight for the WBC belt when I completely recover from the injury. And I’m going to take advantage of this right.

“I started training again last week and I’ll be ready to fight Tony Bellew in autumn or in winter.

“I want to congratulate Tony Bellew on his victory once again and… see you in the ring!”

The Russian won the title with an impressive points win over Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in 2014, before stopping Lukasz Janik in May 2015 in what was his first and only defence.

Bellew’s team are aware of Drozd’s intentions, and will discuss their options once the new champion has enjoyed a well-deserved holiday.

Former unified cruiserweight champion David Haye has been involved in a war of words since Tony following Bellew’s emotional interview after beating Makabu, and has stated he could get to 210lbs to fight Bellew at a catchweight.