ANTHONY JOSHUA came through a crisis after his legs dipped and his nose appeared to break in the opening round. The menace of Alexander Povetkin in the early sessions was real. The WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion threatened to unravel as blood clogged his nostrils. Ragged and busted up, Anthony Joshua was on the brink of disaster.

Yes, those first few minutes will likely encourage any future rivals that Joshua is beatable. They will provide fuel for those who claim Joshua is overhyped and protected. Many will point to Povetkin’s 39 years and declare Joshua’s reign precarious.

And who knows what we’d now be writing if more of those slashing Povetkin hooks and overhand right hands had connected. A left uppercut in the opener, which caused Joshua’s knees to wobble, showed everyone watching, even those unaware of the challenger’s class, how dangerous the Russian was.

But Joshua, it should be noted, was wise to the threat. He regrouped and did so quickly against one of the best fighters in the division. There was no hint of panic even though it seemed he was falling behind. He worked behind his jab, spraying it high and low. His defence, while far from perfect, was blocking blows and creating opportunities for his own attacks. Not quite poetry in motion, it was too hectic for that, but Joshua was fluent and in a groove by the fifth.

Povetkin appeared exhausted at the end of the sixth. The earlier threat had largely been snuffed out as Joshua, in newfound control, picked his punches like a veteran. The finish in round seven was sensational. Joshua, as caution gave way to opportunity, drew Povetkin to him. He fired a right hand that sent the challenger toppling backwards. He landed on his knees in a heap, head through the ropes, dizzy and barely able to get up.

Joshua ended matters with accurate and savage punches. It was exciting, it was flawed, but it was brilliantly executed at the end. And while the violence that flowed from his fists finished Povetkin, it was his calm mind that was the orchestrater. A calmness that will serve Joshua well as he looks ahead to a showdown with the winner of the December 1 Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury fight.

Anthony Joshua

Certainly, fans will demand that fight. They deserve that fight. Most of all, Joshua needs that fight. Without question he is the No.1 heavyweight in the world, his achievements are vast in comparison to his nearest rivals. Tonight’s victory was arguably his finest performance but the buzz for this encounter was lacking when compared to recent outings. Only a Wilder or a Fury will bring that magical atmosphere back.

But consider this. Joshua has defeated Dillian Whyte, Dominic Breazeale, Wladimir Klitschko, Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker and now Povetkin in recent years. He’s just won his fourth stadium fight in a row. Most importantly, he continues to improve. He can box and punch and excite. He thrives in education.

He should be applauded for all that he’s achieved. Let Joshua enjoy his latest victory. It did not come easy. Take stock and appreciate all that he’s done since turning professional in 2013, in 22 fights, instead of growing annoyed that he’s not yet done it all.

He may or may not achieve all that’s expected of him. For now, that those expectations grow with each contest should say it all.