Anthony Joshua defended his world heavyweight titles with a devastating knockout of Alexander Povetkin after overcoming an early onslaught from the Russian at Wembley.
The British star blasted Povetkin to the canvas with a brutal assault in the seventh round and then floored the WBA mandatory challenger again to signal a sudden and dramatic ending to his 22nd professional victory.
As he returned to the scene of his epic win over Wladimir Klitschko, there would be more moments of concern for Joshua as he was wobbled and hurt in the early rounds, only to once again show his battling spirit to become the first man to stop Povetkin.
The rain-soaked stadium was lit up by pyrotechnics as Povetkin, decked out in a black robe, marched towards the ring, followed by the home favourite, whose entrance was announced by a rapper and raucous cheers from the huge crowd.
But the battles cries turned to gasps at ringside in the first round as Joshua was staggered by a left hook from Povetkin, who had menacingly stalked through the opening few minutes.
With blood dripping from Joshua’s injured nose, Povetkin waited for another moment to pounce in the second and again found his range with a hurtful hook.
Joshua’s defences remained worryingly easy for Povetkin to penetrate in the third as he rammed in an overhand right, before ducking low to deliver a hook, but the Brit began to reply with crisp counters.
A wayward elbow opened a cut over Povetkin’s right eye in the fourth, briefly stalling his charge, and Joshua tried to force him onto the back foot with stinging jabs.
Povetkin would not be deterred easily and he unloaded hooks from either hand in the fifth, but Joshua used nimble footwork and his accurate left hand to neutralise the veteran in the sixth.
After finally gaining the measure of his determined foe, Joshua would create an explosive finale to the fight in the following round.
A straight right hand sent shockwaves through the legs of Povetkin, and a left hook followed by a right sent him crashing to the canvas. Povetkin clambered upwards in a daze and Joshua delivered a succession of crunching shots to seal a stunning triumph.
With Sky Sports