Anthony Joshua was at his clinical best in Wembley Stadium last night, stopping Alexander Povetkin in the seventh round of their heavyweight title fight.
Russia’s Povetkin was 39 and deemed by some to be past his best and expected to be less prolific since enrolling in the clean boxing programme. The veteran former WBA king and 2004 Olympic gold medallist used his smaller frame to his advantage in the early sessions and bobbed and weaved in and out of range, setting up attacks behind quick feints and punishing Joshua with rapid-fire combinations.
Joshua’s nose was bloodied early and looked broken. It impaired his breathing and may have had an impact on his gas tank had the bout gone late. Povetkin himself suffered a nasty cut to the left eye -believed to be from the champion’s stray elbow- and the heads were coming dangerously close during Povetkin’s raiding attacks.
By the fourth round Joshua was timing Povetkin’s head movement a little better with his snappy rangefinder, and around this time he introduced a spearing jab to the body. That punch would also play a significant part in the finishing sequence. “AJ” had been hampered in the lead-up to the fight with a cold and looked slightly nervous during the ring walks, as well you might when the eyes of a nation, let alone 80,000 people in a football stadium, are watching with renewed expectation.
New Zealand’s Joseph Parker had been the first to take Joshua the distance in their March showdown but a stabbing jab to the body, followed up by a barrage in the seventh suddenly had Povetkin rocking. In no mood to let the older man off the hook, Joshua emphatically rediscovered his natural finishing instincts and peppered his foe with heavy-handed blows. Brave yet outgunned, Povetkin staggered to his feet and convinced UK referee Steve Gray that he was OK to continue.
Despite being visibly shaken Mr Gray did the right thing allowing such an experienced campaigner, and former belt holder, one last chance to stay in the fight. Joshua, meanwhile, decided it was time to pack him back home to Chekhov. A series of clubbing blows landed (some were visibly around the back of the ailing visitor’s head, but it was mainly academic by then) and the referee swiftly intervened.
Joshua retained his WBA, WBO and IBF titles. Alabama’s Deontay Wilder holds the WBC title; Tyson Fury clings on to the fact that he holds the recondite lineal title that is coveted and revered mainly by hardcore followers of the sport.
He will fight again on April 13, with old rival Dillian Whyte expected to be the opponent if Whyte can get past Dereck Chisora in their expected December rematch. Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have agreed to fight, with December 1 the date being discussed. Promoter Eddie Hearn took a dig at Wilder’s team not signing the contract when asked about a possible future fight between the pair. Joshua would not be drawn on calling out an exact name despite the Sky Sports interviewer’s best attempts.
Promoter Eddie Hearn took a dig at Wilder’s team not signing the contract when asked about a possible future fight between the pair.
“I came in here to have fun, and give it my best. I knew he was strong to the head but weak to the body. I was just mixing it up,” said Joshua, who admitted he had prayed hard before the show to keep the rain at bay.
That did not happen, but the cavalcade of blows he rained down on Povetkin served to excite the crowd and deliver the big heavyweight knockout so craved by TV providers and promoters. All of whom will be happy to keep the AJ train rolling at full speed as the Watford puncher once again reinforced his claim to be the number one heavy on the planet.