Anthony Joshua endured a frustrating night before eventually stopping Carlos Takam and defending his IBF and WBA heavyweight titles in 10 rounds in Cardiff.
In his first fight since ending the career of the great and once-dominant Wladimir Klitschko, 28-year-old Joshua required his advantages in size, speed and power to gradually wear down his previously little-known opponent from France.
Bigger fights against superior opponents are expected to follow in 2018 – but in defeating his mandatory challenger and excluding that with Klitschko, the Briton unexpectedly faced the toughest match-up of his career.
36-year-old Takam, who replaced the injured Kubrat Pulev just 12 days ago, put on an impressive display in Wales – and Joshua was full of praise for his opponent.
“First and foremost, Cardiff thank you for coming out this evening,” said Joshua, speaking to Sky Sports after the fight.
“Takam, it was a pleasure. I come to fight, I don’t sit on the edge and make decisions. It was a good fight until the ref stopped it, so I have the utmost respect for Takam.
“I have no interest in what is going on with the officials, that’s not my job. I think people want to see Takam unconscious on the floor, and that’s what I was trying to get to.”