Anthony Joshua walked through Eric Molina, defending his IBF world heavyweight title for a second time, before a mega-fight with Wladimir Klitschko was announced in the ring.
Joshua picked up an 18th knockout victory from as many professional bouts, stopping Molina in the third round at Manchester Arena, but his next assignment will be on one of the biggest stages, with Eddie Hearn announcing Klitschko will look to regain one of his old belts at Wembley Stadium on April 29.
Former lineal champion Klitschko saw several attempts at a rematch with Tyson Fury – who deposed him as the division’s ruler in 2015 – collapse this year.
Fury, WBC strap-holder Deontay Wilder and David Haye were also interested onlookers in Manchester.
Ahead of the ultimate test, Joshua looked every inch a potential ruler of the division with his latest polished performance in front of a partisan crowd.
Molina was immediately on the defensive, backing into the ropes and allowing Joshua to find his range with two rounds spent behind his thumping left jab.
And Joshua brutally picked up the pace at the start of the third, snapping Molina’s head back with two early combinations before leaving the American slumped in his own corner after a straight right hand.
Molina beat referee Steve Gray’s 10 count but the fight was over less than 10 seconds later as Joshua piled into his opponent with a relentless flurry that left him slumped over the ropes.
This was not Joshua’s sternest test, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to downplay his dominance in a heavyweight division that he could lay claim to being the very best in if he is to beat Klitschko next year.
Earlier on Saturday, New Zealand’s Joseph Parker won the WBO heavyweight strap with a narrow points win over Andy Ruiz in Auckland, a victory that could push the Kiwi closer to a previously discussed fight with Joshua.
On the undercard to Joshua, Dillian Whyte beat Dereck Chisora by split decision after a knee-trembling slugfest that took everything out of both men after a thunderous 12 rounds.
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