OLYMPIC champion Anthony Joshua added a professional strip to his emerging legacy by destroying American IBF titleholder Charles Martin to take his belt and tear open the wider heavyweight scene.
An action packed night saw 20,000 fans baying for blood at a raucous O2 Arena in London with a top assemblage of active British fighters on the undercard. The tickets had sold out in minutes, however, for Joshua, the 6 foot 6 man from Watford with personable telegenic charm and a monstrous right hand.
After a cagey opening stanza the challenger, who had won all of his 15 previous bouts inside the distance, unleashed a tight right cross which sent the undefeated champion collapsing to the canvas. Although he managed to beat the count, history repeated itself within seconds and the referee called it off, perhaps prematurely but with little complaint from the dethroned American.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn was quick to announce the arrival of a new global sports superstar, but the man himself was more humble in his self-appraisal, aware that he is not yet the undisputed world champion but rather a secondary belt-holder in the eyes of the boxing world.
That role remains with Tyson Fury, the WBO and WBA champion who unexpectedly took three belts from future hall-of-famer Wladimir Klitschko in November. The Mancunian Gypsy King and London’s new hero seem on course for what will be a hugely hyped unification collision should Fury get past a rematch with Klitschko this summer in Manchester.