Anthony Joshua remains undefeated after knocking out Alexander Povetkin
It was a mandatory defence that was considered a needless obstacle as the boxing world eyed a unification showdown between Joshua and fellow unbeaten heavyweight Deontay Wilder.
However, it was anything but a procession as Povetkin immediately caught Joshua on the nose as he prowled the ring with the composure of a champion.
The Russian, whose only previous defeat had come against Wladimir Klitschko on points, seized the initiative following his early breakthrough to land further big blows in rounds two and three.
Joshua belatedly settled in the London rain, catching his rival above the left eye in the fourth round before his blistering attack three rounds later.
Povetkin, who has had two doping convictions, hauled himself off the canvas to halt the party, but his stay of execution was fleeting as Joshua charged back in to secure a 21st knockout in 22 professional fights.
Joshua retained his WBA, IBF and WBO titles, with attention now switching to Wilder’s fight with Tyson Fury on December 1. The winner of that bout will surely meet Joshua in 2019.