BRITISH fighter Anthony Joshua survived the first knockdown of his young career, coming back to drop Wladimir Klitschko twice before stopping him in the 11th round to retain his world heavyweight boxing titles.
Before a boisterous crowd of 90,000 at London's Wembley Stadium, Joshua and Klitschko traded huge punches and showed grit before the local finally found a way to finish the longtime former champion.
It was anybody's fight when Joshua landed a right uppercut early in the 11th round that spun Klitschko's head around.
He was all over the Ukrainian and dropped him with a left hook, but Klitschko got up, only to take even more punishment.
The 27-year-old Joshua knocked Klitschko down again and was landing punches to his head on the ropes when referee David Fields moved in to stop the bout late in the 11th round.
Joshua defended his heavyweight titles, winning for the 19th time in as many fights in a bout that lived up to its billing as the best heavyweight fight in more than a decade.
Everyone knows the fight game is full of egos, but they were put aside at the end of a bout that will be remembered forever.
After thanking his trainers, Joshua was all class in turning his attention to his opponent.
"I want to give a massive shout out to 90,000 people in the arena and lastly, as boxing states, you leave your ego at the door and you respect your opponent, so a massive shout out to Wladimir Klitschko for taking part," Joshua said after his win.
"I'm not going to say too much, in terms of the boxing Hall of Fame, he's a role model in and out of the ring and I've not nothing but love and respect for anyone who steps in the ring."
At just 27, you'd forgive Joshua for being a little daunted by the prospect of facing someone with Klitschko's resume (he's a former world champion and Olympic gold medallist). But that was never going to be a problem.
"I came out and I won, that's how far I had to dig. I didn't get into a 12-round slugfest and struggle to beat Klitschko. I came back and I fought my heart out and I got him out of there, that's what I'm about," Joshua said.
"I knew it was possible to hurt him but I am learning round by round. I'm learning under the bright lights.
"I don't come to box, I come to hurt people. With all due respect, I came to hurt him.
"At the end of the day, I figured out what I had to do and got him done.
"I'm a little bit emotional, because I know I've got doubters. But I dug deep.
"Boxing is about character, as I said from the get go it will be a boxing classic, find what you believe in and give it a go."
There were no excuses and no tantrums from Klitschko. The Ukrainian doffed his cap to Joshua, admitting he was the better fighter on the night and in doing so, earned just as much respect as he did for his valiant effort in the ring.
"The best man won tonight. Anthony was better today than I, it's really sad that I didn't make it tonight. I was planning to do it but it didn't work," Klitschko said. "All the respect to Anthony - congratulations.
"I enjoyed the night. I wish I could've raised my hand. He got up and fought back to win the titles.
"The best man won tonight and it's a massive event for boxing."
The 41-year-old also hinted at a rematch but said for now he needed time to digest what was an incredible fight.
"Love and respect to you guys, 90,000 people present, you were awesome guys, thankyou so much for your support of this sport and of this fight," Klitschko said.
"Of course we have in the contract (the possibility of a rematch) but I'm right now interested in analysing what the heck has happened."
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