In what was his first real test as a professional boxer, Anthony Joshua beat his rival Dillian Whyte with a seventh round knockout, to win the British heavyweight title.
It was a thrilling fight with an even more exuberant atmosphere at London’s 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, as Joshua grabbed his 15th win – all KOs.
Joshua, 26, came into the fight with 14 straight knockouts in the first three rounds. However Whyte, 27, gave him a run for his money – taking some huge blows, whilst also managing to land a few of his own.
Before Saturday, Whyte was unbeaten in 16 pro fights, with 13 knockouts. He beat Joshua in the amateur ranks in 2009, was full of confidence during the build-up and it was hoped he might at least test his rival’s chin.
Whyte did indeed take it to Joshua in the first round, but took plenty of shuddering blows as a result and looked at one point as if he might not last three minutes. But what looked like a momentary buckling of the knees proved to be deceptive.
At the end of the first round, in which both men had a vehement exchange of blows, the ref had to separate the pair after a tense standoff. A few late punches from Joshua caused Whyte to retaliate by attempting to punch Joshua while he was being held by the referee.
This in turn led to both sets of teams, plus security, invading the ring. Action resumed shortly afterwards, when the canvas was cleared.
At the start of the second, Joshua continued to talk to Whyte, until he was staggered by a huge left hook. While Joshua was clearly hurt, Whyte was unable to take advantage of this and press for a knockout or further connecting blows.
By the third round, Whyte had earned Joshua’s full respect as he was bringing a real test to the Olympic champion. When the bell sounded for the start of the fourth – unfamiliar territory for Joshua – the fight seemed to be in the balance.
Joshua managed to back Whyte up with his jab in the fourth, only for his rival to come back swinging and land with some grazing shots of his own.
However, Whyte was gasping by the end of the sixth, and when he offered to touch gloves at the start of the seventh, it seemed like a sign of acceptance.
A left to the temple sent Whyte wobbling across the ring, although he did well to compose himself, grab Joshua and tie him up on the inside. However, Whyte was unable to keep Joshua off for long.
Whyte was finally finished off by a picture-perfect uppercut. Having tried and failed to make it to his feet, he was given medical attention in the ring but soon helped back to his corner.
#JoshuaWhyte was trending on social media, with many congratulatory messages for Joshua; citing the “savage uppercut” that did the job. Although he won the fight, Joshua cited he has made some errors he cannot afford to make in bigger fights, should he progress further to the world stage.
For now, he and the rest of #TeamJoshua will be partying, for sure.