Anthony Joshua has beaten Wladimir Klitschko with an 11th round stoppage in a thrilling heavyweight title fight in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley.
Both fighters were on the brink of defeat at various stages, with Joshua recovering from a knockdown that had him hanging on in the middle rounds to steady the ship and stop the Ukrainian.
Klitschko, 41, defied many who believed he would be steamrollered in the early rounds by his younger opponent, and held off the Briton behind his jab.
Joshua charged out with a ferocious onslaught in the fifth that sent Klitschko to the canvas, but the experienced former champion recovered well and it was the British fighter who ended the round gasping for air.
Smelling blood, Klitschko came back with a right hook in the sixth to knock Joshua down for the first time in his career, with the Watford-born fighter struggling to stay in the fight.
A heartstopping few rounds followed for the 2012 Olympic champion as he appeared spent and unsteady, throwing little back to worry Klitschko.
With the veteran fighter using his years of ring craft to edge ahead on many pundits’ scorecards, time was ticking down for Joshua.
He needed something big in the final rounds and he delivered – big time.
The bell for the 11th saw Joshua rejuvenated, a beautiful uppercut teeing up the first knockdown, then a left hook sending Klitschko down again – only for the Ukrainian to show immense heart to drag himself off the canvas.
A final flurry forced the referee to step in and save a spent Klitschko from further punishment.
The thrilling nature of Joshua’s win – who adds the WBA title to his IBF version – is likely to propel him to household-name status in Britain.
On a global level, a place on boxing’s top table awaits at a time when the sport – and particularly the heavyweight division – has struggled to stay in the public consciousness.
For Klitschko – who perhaps with an extra few punches might have finished Joshua – it could spell retirement, especially after his previous defeat more than a year ago by Britain’s Tyson Fury.
A rematch clause is in the contract, but whether he wants to take it up is a different matter.
But the Ukrainian’s performance was equally as memorable as Joshua’s.
Fourteen years older than his opponent, he showed why he is one of boxing’s most respected and enduring fighters but will go away with the refrain of “what if” ringing in his ears.
“It was really sad I didn’t make it tonight,” Klitschko said minutes after the defeat. “I was planning to do it. It didn’t work. But all respect to Anthony.”
With the crowd in raptures, Joshua told them: “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.”
“I’m not going to say too much, in terms of the boxing hall of fame, [Klitschko’s] a role model in and out of the ring,” he added.