Alexander Povetkin was dangerous at times Saturday night, but Anthony Joshua ultimately did what he has done to all but one professional opponent.
The hard-hitting British superstar dropped Povetkin twice in the seventh round and stopped him in the main event of a seven-bout card that drew an enormous crowd in excess of 80,000 to Wembley Stadium in London. Referee Steve Gray stopped their scheduled 12-round fight at 1:59 of the seventh round, as soon as Povetkin hit the canvas a second time.
The 28-year-old Joshua went off as a 10-1 favorite, according to most Internet sports books, and eventually overpowered Povetkin accordingly.
The 6-feet-6, 246¼-pound Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) retained the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO titles and satisfied the WBA’s mandatory defense by beating Povetkin. He also became the first fighter to knock out Russia’s Povetkin, a former WBA heavyweight champion.
“Alexander Povetkin is a very tough challenger,” Joshua told Sky Sports during his post-fight interview. “He proved that tonight with good left hooks, good counter-punches. But I come in here to have fun, do what I’ve been working on in the gym and give it my best. I realized he was strong to the head, but I know that he was weak to the body.
“So I set up jabbing to the head, I was just switching it up and every jab takes a second of breath out of you, so it slows him down. It could’ve taken seven, maybe nine, maybe 12 rounds to get him out of there. But the ultimate goal was to come out victorious tonight.”
The 39-year-old Povetkin lost for just the second time in his career (34-2, 24 KOs) and had his eight-fight winning streak snapped. Before Joshua defeated him, the 6-feet-2, 222-pound Povetkin hadn’t lost since Wladimir Klitschko knocked him down four times and beat him by unanimous decision in their 12-round title unification fight in October 2013 in Moscow.
Joshua suffered a bloodied nose in the first round, yet eventually broke down the powerful Povetkin and finished him off in a tactical battle Joshua properly predicted would be “violent chess.” The 2012 Olympic gold medalist disputed DAZN announcer Chris Mannix’s contention in another post-fight interview that Povetkin “buckled” his legs in the first round, but Povetkin definitely got Joshua’s attention with a right uppercut late in the first round.
Six rounds later, Joshua finished off his smaller, game challenger.
Joshua hurt Povetkin badly with a right hand just before the midway mark of the seventh round. Povetkin stumbled backward and Joshua went after him.
Joshua then landed a right hand to the body, a left hook to the head and a crushing right hand that knocked down Povetkin. The stunned former champion got up, but Joshua attacked him and knocked him down a second time by drilling him with another devastating right hand.
Gray stepped in immediately to halt the action as Povetkin went to the canvas a second time.
Joshua clipped Povetkin with a left hook that knocked Povetkin backward early in the sixth round. The defending champion followed up by landing a right uppercut as Povetkin retreated.
Joshua’s overhand right landed flush to Povetkin’s jaw with about 1:10 to go in the sixth.
Povetkin caught Joshua with a right hand to top of Joshua’s head with just under two minutes to go in the fifth round. Joshua tapped near the spot on his head where Povetkin’s punch landed to indicate he could take those types of shots.
A cut opened over Povetkin’s left eye early in the fourth round, the apparent result of a right hand Joshua landed. Joshua continually blocked Povetkin’s left hook in the final minute of the fourth round and landed a flush left hook of his own with just less than 50 seconds to go in it.
Joshua landed a looping left hook just before the halfway point of the third round. Joshua landed an overhand right to the side of Povetkin’s head and quickly got out of Povetkin’s punching range late in the third.
In between Joshua landing those shots in the third round, Povetkin snuck in a short left hand that split Joshua’s guard.
Joshua was bleeding from his nose very early in the second round, when Povetkin connected with an overhand right from a far distance. Joshua’s jab landed straight to Povetkin’s face near the end of the second round.
A right hand by Joshua was the first effective punch landed in the fight, with about 1:20 to go in the first round. Joshua hit Povetkin with another short right hand when there were about 30 seconds to go in the first round.
Just before the round ended, however, Povetkin caught Joshua with a crisp combination – a left hook, a right uppercut and another left hook. The uppercut didn’t land flush, but it helped bloody Joshua’s nose.