Anthony Joshua survives a few scares and then produces a stunning knock-out to beat Alexander Povetkin
Anthony Joshua came through one of the toughest battles of his career to beat Alexander Povetkin with a stunning knock-out to hang on to his IBF, WBA Super, WBO & IBO heavyweight title belts.
In a tense contest at Wembley Stadium, Joshua was rocked at the end of the first round and appeared to be wobbled again by his tough punching opponent before breaking his down with a flurry of punches in the seventh round.
In front of fanatical fans in the London rain, AJ confirmed his status as the best heavyweight in the world, as he extended his unbeaten record to 22 fights and added a 21st knock-out victory to his immaculate record.
"Povetkin is a very tough challenger and he proved it tonight. I realised he was strong to the head but weak to the body," declared Joshua after his victory.
"I got my knockout streak back, I found my right hand again. There's a lot of pressure, the country is rooting for us all and boxing. The energy in here spurs you on and I do feel that pressure."
Since adding his third world title with March's victory over Joseph Parker, the return of Tyson Fury and frustration over his inability to secure a unification match-up with WBC champion Deontay Wilder has threatened that very reputation.
When asked why the fight against Wilder did not happen on this occasioned, Joshua added: "We both did a lot of talking, I'm here now, I had a good fight
"There is a lot of pressure the whole country is rooting for us. The energy in here spurs you on and you do feel that pressure, I'm not going to lie. A few years ago maybe I wouldn't have won the fight."
That an estimated 68,000 were present at Wembley Stadium - significantly fewer than the 90,000-strong crowd that attended last year's victory over Wladimir Klitschko - demonstrated that, but he professionally overcame an opponent of ambition and class.
The 39-year-old Povetkin, like Joshua an Olympic gold medallist, had previously lost only to Klitschko and over the distance when the great Ukrainian was at his peak. Joshua capitalised on his aggression in a way that Klitschko could not, dropping him once before stopping him on his feet.
Joshua had spoken in the week of feeling "tons of pressure" to perform and the confirmation of the December 1 date for the higher-profile fight between Wilder and Fury will not have helped, but if he felt that pressure in the ring it did not show.
With the physical advantages over an opponent who fought Klitschko on the same evening Joshua made his professional debut, it would have proved a significant upset had the champion secured anything other than his latest victory.
Joshua confirmed he is hoping to fight WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in his next fight at Wembley Stadium on April 13th, but promoter Eddie Hearn admitted he may struggled to deliver that fight.
"Joshua is a player in this game, the one stepping up and taking on great fighters," said Hearn.
"He is a special talent and a great model. There was a lot of pressure, Povetkin is a great fighter.
"Joshua's a real world champion, we will go away now and try and make a fight with Wilder. If it's not Deontay Wilder then it will be Dillian Whyte on April 13."