IT had been a perilous week for Anthony Joshua.
First a bout of man flu — which, as any bloke will tell you, is a serious enough affliction to bother even the heavyweight champion of the world.
Second, a broken glove moments before walk-on.
Then a stunning left hook from 39-year-old Alexander Povetkin which busted Joshua’s blocked nose at the end of the first round and “bucked my ideas up quick”.
And all the while, an intense fear of losing to the dangerous Russian, when the world would have called him a chump for having failed to strike a deal to fight Deontay Wilder for the holy grail of undisputed supremacy.
But Joshua dealt with all that physical and psychological adversity and, with his reputation on the line after six nip-and-tuck rounds, he delivered a magnificent seventh.
Precise as a surgeon, brutal as a slaughterman, Joshua destroyed a man rated as the third-best heavyweight on the planet at Wembley on Saturday night.
A vicious right floored Povetkin and though he climbed back to his feet, a flurry of punches from Joshua had referee Steve Gray calling a halt 1min 59sec into the round.
After an efficient points win to take the WBO belt from Joseph Parker in his previous fight, this was the show-stopper the Brit’s ‘Seven Nation Army’ of fans had been craving.
As he approaches his 29th birthday, with three of the four major belts and after seven straight world title victories in 2½ years, this is a seasoned and savvy Joshua with an increasingly-impressive canon of work.
Whenever that unification bout with Wilder happens — and the smart money says it will not be as soon as Joshua’s next appearance at Wembley in April — the man from Watford must be clear favourite.
Part of Joshua’s maturity is his ability to be honest and analytical, even in the immediate aftermath of success — such as his admission he had underestimated Povetkin’s power.
“I didn’t think he was a puncher at first,” said the champion, “I thought ‘15 stone, this guy isn’t going to do s***’. What is 15 stone?’
“Then he hit me with that left hook and it was ‘Oh my god, hang on!’”
Joshua delivered that line with a squealing laugh. “That bucked up my ideas quick,” he conceded.
As for the man flu — well it was heartening for all his gender to hear how tough that struggle had been.
“I’ve been ill this last week,” he revealed, “and you know when you start thinking to yourself ‘these signs are bad’, but I pulled through.
“It hit me last week Friday. I had it over the weekend and I thought by Wednesday it would be gone. But I only started feeling better on Friday.
“It was still there in my head, I had a head cold. I felt like a heavy gust of wind could knock me over.
“On my way to the stadium, I was thinking I can have one more sleep.
“But I felt this way in training camp and still sparred 15 good rounds, so I’ve got one geezer in the ring who will fade sooner or later, so let’s just get on with it.”
The worry of losing this, after his promoter Eddie Hearn had failed to come to terms for a unification fight with Wilder, had been more troublesome still for Joshua.
He admitted: “The saying would have been ‘Eddie and Josh are idiots, they had a chance to fight for the undisputed title’.
“The Wilder fight wasn’t signed and sealed — but the headline would have been ‘Chance to fight for the title but slipped on the banana skin’.
“Every fight is scary. We don’t want to lose what we have got. But especially this one because of what we know is to come.”
Now Joshua will watch Wilder fight Tyson Fury on December 1, believing his fellow Brit might just bore his way to a shock victory.
But the IBF, WBA and WBO champion will be looking on with the same sense of serenity he took into the ring on Saturday.
“I have no worry in the ring any more,” Joshua said, “Eddie is like, ‘You don’t look hyped in the ring’. But I’m calm, relaxed. I went in to fight Povetkin ill, no problem.
“I’ve had injuries. No problem. And Povetkin is not a game. Put him in with X, Y and Z and he’ll give them a scrap and might come out on top.
“I’m more seasoned now, but not where I need to be yet. I haven’t found that perfect style but it is working at the minute.
“Someone asked if it is my vulnerability that makes this thing exciting — yeah, for sure, because I’m still learning but I’m also good enough to get the outcome I want.
“I always think about that one punch, though. Nobody can beat me skill for skill I don’t think.
“It’s just that one punch. I’d hate for that to be the reason I lose. That’s what they’re all looking for.”
For a split-second it looked like Povetkin’s left hook might have been that one fateful punch.
Instead, it was just another lesson learned for a student graduating with a master’s degree in violence.
IT had been a perilous week for Anthony Joshua.