Joshua KOs Povetkin in the seventh

Singapore boxer Muhammad Ashiq hunting WBC title in Bangkok

Anthony Joshua overcame a feisty challenge from Alexander Povetkin at Wembley on Saturday night to retain his world heavyweight titles with a seventh-round knockout win.

The unbeaten champion sent WBA mandatory challenger Povetkin to the canvas twice in the seventh round for a 22nd professional win, but it was not plain sailing for the big Brit.

Joshua was rocked in the early rounds, but recovered well before gaining strength as he became the first boxer to stop the Russian.

The home favourite had warned about Povetkin’s danger pre-fight and those predictions came true in the very first round as the challenger stung Joshua with a sharp left hook, the Russian causing AJ all manner of trouble in the opening rounds.

With blood dripping from the champion’s nose, Povetkin once again showed his speed as he caught Joshua with another powerful hook in the second.

A big overhand right and follow-up hook in the third landed in the third as Povetkin set the early pace, although Joshua was by now also beginning to find the target with regularity.

Povetkin was then cut above his right eye in the fourth following a clash of heads, the cut seemed to knock the Russian out of his stride as the champion restarted his attacks with several decent jabs when the action got back underway.

The Russian was still going for it in round five, swinging wildly as he looked for the KO. But Joshua seemed to be gaining the upper hand as Povetkin’s work, so impressive early on, now started to look a bit ragged.

The two continued to exchange blows, Joshua landing a big left on Povetkin’s temple before the Russian replied with another overhand right. While still punching hard, the veteran was beginning to look tired as the 11-year age gap between the duo started to tell.

And it was all over in the seventh as Joshua caught Povetkin with a series of swinging punches before a left and right combination sent his crashing to the canvas. After staggering back to his feet for the count he was allowed to carry on, but several more big hits from AJ saw his opponent’s legs buckle as referee Steve Gray stepped in to end the fight.

It was a devastating finish from the Briton, who handed the 39-year old Russian only his second defeat and first inside the distance.

After the fight, Joshua paid tribute to Povetkin.

“Alexander is a very tough challenger,” Joshua said. “He proved that tonight with clever counter-punching. I switched from the head to the body. Every jab takes a second of breath out of you. I had a good fight, got my knockout streak back.”

Speculation will now turn to his next opponent, with Deontay Wilder the obvious choice, although fellow Brit Dillian Whyte was ringside and could be an alternative if the Wilder fight once again fails to happen.