ANTHONY JOSHUA likened the early stages of his thrilling war with Dillian Whyte to “a street fight”, but refused to admit that he now respects his bitter rival after flattening him in the seventh round. The contest exploded from the midway point of the opening round with Whyte looking on the brink of being stopped only to survive, and they both exchanged punches in untidy scenes after the bell. Whyte wobbled Joshua in the second, before the favourite composed himself and regained control.

“I made it tough for myself and that’s what I need, I need the experience,” Joshua told Sky Sports’ Ed Robinson immediately after his exciting triumph. “He came out, he gave me rounds and I learnt a lot. Now I can look forward, I made some mistakes in there that I can’t take to the top level and that’s why Dillian was the perfect fight at this stage. There’s no rush. I’m going to keep on building and building and building until I make my mark in this division.”

“I had the strength to knock him out so I went for it when I saw him hurt in the first round but you’ve got to remember from [rounds] one to four they can soak it up and then I found my way and found my rhythm, listened to my corner man and as the rounds went on I started relaxing,” the 26-year-old continued. “Then I saw certain shots that I could throw. That’s why it’s good to have the 12-round fight so I can reflect on what I’m doing. I had the same power in the first round as I had in the eighth [seventh] so that’s why I was able to get him out of there.”

When asked about the melee after the first round, that started with Joshua throwing after the bell and Whyte trying to punch Joshua while he was on his stool, the Olympic champion attempted to excuse himself of any wrongdoing.

“It’s a fight really, so you’re going to keep on punching if someone is punching you, you’re going to punch back,” he said. “That’s why the referee is there to break it up otherwise we’d be fighting 36 minutes without no break – that’s why we’ve got a ref, to keep splitting it up. I don’t know who hit who after the bell.”

Joshua had never been into the fourth round before and believes this result and performance answers questions frequently asked of him.

“I listened to my coach and it’s just what I needed at this stage,” said Joshua. “People say ‘Can he take a shot?’ I took a couple of silly ones. People say, ‘Can he go the rounds?’ I went further than I’ve ever been and I still managed to get him out of there. I learnt stuff about myself and I can take that into 2016.”

Whyte appeared to trouble Joshua in the second with a left hook, and there were moments when he was made to look very uncomfortable. But Joshua – who by the finish was boxing beautifully – claimed he was never in any real distress.

“It’s more to the fact that you’re loading up. It’s an art, boxing. You’re getting hit by 18-stone guys so it’s more about keeping your cool. It’s a balance thing, you get your balance back. There was no way I was going to let him catch me with stupid shots. Dillian come to fight, that’s not the end of him. You’ve got to respect everyone but I’m going on to higher things.”

When asked if Whyte had at last earned his respect for standing up to so many powerful shots, Joshua said simply: “No, not really.”