LONDON — Anthony Joshua retained his WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titles with a seventh-round stoppage of Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium.
Joshua, who fought with a suspected broken nose from the second round, sent the Russian to the canvas with a big right midway through the seventh and was unloading a flurry of punches before the referee stepped in to end the fight.
Joshua's record moved to 22-0, with 21 wins coming inside the distance. This was another big test passed by the Briton in front of an estimated 80,000 fans at Wembley — just like 17 months ago when he recovered from getting knocked down against Wladimir Klitschko to win an epic fight.
Joshua, whose phenomenal pulling power sees him pack out stadiums, is booked to return to Wembley on April 13 for his next bout, and the plan is for the opponent to be either WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder or former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. They confirmed earlier Saturday they will be fighting on Dec. 1, likely in Las Vegas.
Selling the Povetkin fight was harder than usual for Joshua and his promoters, with the Russian boxer aged 39 and conceding around 11 kilograms on the champion. Joshua was 1-10 to win with some British bookmakers.
On a rainy night that forced spectators at ground level to wear plastic ponchos as protection from the wet conditions, Joshua struggled in the early rounds and was rocked by a three-punch combination from Povetkin in the first.
Blood poured from Joshua's right nostril and he might have lost rounds two and three, too, with Povetkin dangerous close in and with his fierce left hook.
"A few years ago," Joshua said, "maybe I wouldn't have won that fight."
Joshua started to pick off Povetkin thereafter by using his longer reach. The challenger was looking for the big punch and it kept Joshua mostly on the back foot.
But Povetkin, who sustained a bad cut over his left eye in round four, began noticeably slowing, and in the seventh round Joshua unleashed a powerful right and then a left hook. With Povetkin open, Joshua followed through with a straight right that took Povetkin down and left him hanging through the ropes.
He beat the count but was being overwhelmed by Joshua when the fight was stopped.
Povetkin, who was the WBA "regular" champion from 2011-13, was getting a shot at a world title for the first time since testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs twice in a seven-month period in 2016.
Coming in the same week as his native Russia was welcomed back into global sporting competition by WADA after a notorious doping scandal, the timing of the fight seemed apt.
And he put up a game fight, one which proved to be Joshua's toughest test since Klitschko. It was the first time Povetkin was stopped inside the distance.