Anthony Joshua continued his meteoric rise through the heavyweight division at London’s O2 Arena last night, knocking out bitter rival Dillian Whyte in the seventh round to capture the vacant British title.
The Olympic champion’s victory was far from routine however and for the first time in his career, he was tested and even in danger of defeat against the valiant Brixton fighter. Joshua though recovered well and proved he could take a punch – eventually settling the battle with a devastating uppercut midway through the seventh.
The main event epitomised much of what had gone before, as Matchroom Boxing’s hugely anticipated showpiece event of the year inevitably lived up to the hype that has surrounded it for the past month.
An ongoing feud between Joshua and Whyte prior to the fight symbolised the title ‘Bad Intentions’ and that title became even more justifiable during the fight.
Once Michael Buffer had suitably introduced the two heavyweights, Joshua began in familiar fashion, unloading a barrage of spiteful punches on his bitter foe in front of an expectant London crowd. The 26-year old was in a punishing mood and had Whyte troubled throughout the first, but his eagerness caused chaos as the bell rang.
Joshua, purposely or not, caught his opponent after the bell had gone and an incensed Whyte angrily reacted and fired back a few shots of his own. The incident sparked a ruckus between corner-men and associates from both camps.
Whyte was still enraged as he came out for the second and ferociously went toe to toe with his rival – catching Joshua with a short left that shook the Olympian. Joshua’s air of invincibility suddenly seemed to disappear, as he appeared vulnerable and shaken.
From the third round Joshua composed himself though and managed to regain control, despite still shipping some heavy shots from his amateur foe. He regained momentum and began to open up as the rounds progressed.
Whyte had proved tough and brave, but that resistance ended in the seventh. Joshua wobbled ‘the Villain’ with a trademark right hand and Whyte struggled to maintain his balance, desperately trying to hold on. A swift, savage right uppercut finally finished proceedings.
The co-feature main event saw Chris Eubank Jr impressively retire Cork’s granite-chinned Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan at the end of the seventh round.
The Brighton man dominated from the first bell and threw a huge amount of power punches throughout the fight; his favoured uppercut constantly drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd.
Much like Joshua, Eubank was willing to trade with his opponent and proved he could take a shot from the Irishman, as both men exchanged wildly in search of a knockout.
At the end of the seventh O’Sullivan’s corner made a wise decision to pull their man out of there, with the result looking inevitable. The two fighters shook hands at the end of the fight, finally settling the animosity that had preceded fight night.
Following his victory, Eubank Jr is now in a mandatory position to fight for the WBA world title – currently held by New York’s Daniel Jacobs.
Lower down the card, Eddie Hearn’s two leading lightweights – Luke Campbell and Kevin Mitchell – both succumbed to defeats in their respective bouts.
Mitchell – fresh from his world title defeat to Jorge Linares – was fighting for a shot at domestic rival and WBA world champion Anthony Crolla, but in his way stood fairly unknown Ismael Barroso.
Mitchell was stunned in the first round by the big-hitting Venezuelan and from there the avid West Ham supporter struggled to get any foothold in the contest.
Barroso continued to unload thereafter, as Mitchell wishfully looked for one big knockout punch. The power of the South-American soon told and he had the Londoner floored in the fourth.
Barroso finished the job in the fifth and consequently announced his name on the world stage – setting up a fight with Crolla, who was sat ringside. For the 31-year old Mitchell, it marked the fourth loss of his career.
The shock of the night came as the ‘Golden Boy’ Luke Campbell was defeated by France’s Yvan Mendy. Again, power seemed to be the key factor, as the Hull fighter struggled to deal with the work rate and hard-hitting punches that were coming his way.
The usually slick and efficient Olympic gold medallist was dropped in the fifth and could find no way of hurting Mendy as the fight went on. The judges scored it as a split decision victory for the Frenchman, although the margin of victory should have been a fair bit wider. For Campbell and his team, it is an unexpected hiccup and any talk of a world title fight in the near future will have to be set aside for the time being.
Liverpool’s Tony Bellew became the new European cruiserweight champion with a hard fought points victory over Poland’s Mateusz Masternak. Bellew was impressive as he grew stronger throughout the fight and moved himself closer to a possible world title shot at some point next year.
Elsewhere on the card, there were wins for Paulie Malignaggi – who picked up the EBU-EU title with a conclusive points victory – and for Dereck Chisora, who scored his second knockout win in the space of a week.
Matt Horan is a lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123