Another heavyweight fight for the ages, and what a night at the national football stadium as Anthony Joshua finished Alexander Povetkin in a dramatic seventh round to retain his three world heavyweight titles. Twenty-two fights, 22 victories.
Afterwards Joshua identified his ideal next three fights. “In order, I’d like Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and then Dillian Whyte,” said the 28-year-old, who retained his WBO, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles.
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Having been rocked by the Russian’s hooks at the end of the first round, leaving his nose broken and bloodied, Joshua was acutely aware of the danger of the older, more experienced challenger. Yet after taking Povetkin’s best shots, his left hook straight right-hand combination twice buckled Povetkin and sent him to the canvas. The Russian climbed groggily to his feet, but Joshua took him to task once more, crumpling him like clothes falling into a suitcase for a second time.
As predicted, Povetkin was always going to be dangerous but Joshua grew in confidence and finished in style. Heavyweight boxing is about knockouts and he was brutal in delivering it.
Joshua had emerged into the stadium in that white robe, aping Muhammad Ali, looking so relaxed. He raised a white-gloved hand to friends and family sitting ringside, shadowboxed his way to the ring on a hydraulic lift, the biggest commercial commodity in the sport. The big roar went up. Spumes of fire exploded around him but this is now a familiar walk down Wembley way, soundtracked to the chant of ‘O, Anthon-eeee Joshu-ua’.
It was a cagey start as they felt each other out, a phoney war until Povetkin exploded with a three-punch combination which clearly buckled the Briton. It felt a little like Russian roulette at times. There was more animated talk in the corner between rounds than we have ever witnessed from trainer Rob McCracken. Joshua needed it. He needed acuity here.
In the fourth, a brilliant uppercut from Joshua bust the eyelid above Povetkin’s left eye, and clearly it lifted the defending champion. As the fight played out through the fifth and sixth rounds, Povetkin was made to miss more, and when shots did land, the champion simply nodded and waved his rival in. His confidence was growing, and as the older man by 11 years began to tire, Joshua finished emphatically.