Artur Beterbiev admitted he was not at his best during his eight-round shootout with Anthony Yarde.
The WBO, WBC and IBF light heavyweight champion maintained his 100 per cent KO record by forcing Yarde’s trainer, Tunde Ajayi, to request the end of the fight with 59 seconds left of the 8th.
It had been an exhilarating clash until then, with both fighters enjoying spells of success but 38-year-old Beterbiev, now 19-0, was slowly wearing down the Englishman, who touched down moments before the stoppage came.
But despite the another inside-distance win, Beterbiev conceded it was not a vintage performance at the Wembley Arena.
He said: “To be honest in this fight I didn’t do a good job to avoid punches, I didn’t do everything how I wanted.
“It was another win. There were only eight rounds and I can’t show my performance in that time - I was only just getting started I think. To be honest I was just waking up in those rounds.
“You never know how it’s going to go. You can have some strategies or scenarios but you never really know. He did a good fight though but I did a good fight too.
“He watched my last fight and said I was slow. But during the fight, I’m thinking ‘why did you say I’m slow?’ He was slow, not me!
“I can’t say he was tougher than I imagined. There were different things. When you fight for 12 rounds in a unification fight I think maybe it’s more difficult for me than it is for Yarde because he can get three belts in one shot. It’s easier as the challenger, I can say it’s more difficult to defend.
“I can’t say it was my toughest fight but he’s good and he did a good job. I felt in control though. He’s a good guy and I wish him well for the future. For me today was a win but for him it was experience.
“I think he has the ability to win a world title because he’s young and he has potential, tonight he gained a lot of experience.”
On the stoppage, Beterbiev added: “It was a good decision. The coach has to feel what his fighter is feeling - he knows better than his fighter when to stop it. I don’t want to kill someone, I just want to win.”
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