The champion, whose both parents come from Sagamu in Ogun State, dropped Povetkin with a brutal assault in the seventh round and then floored the WBA mandatory challenger again to signal a sudden and dramatic ending to his title defence.
The win, which was watched by an estimated 80,000 fans at Wembley, has thus set the tone for a unification fight in 2019 between Joshua and the winner of the coming bout between British Tyson Fury and American Deontay Wilder, which has been set for December.
The fight had a reported £26m purse with Joshua expected to take home up to £20m while Povetkin will receive £6m. Povetkin, 39, has thus lost his second fight on his 36th fight.
His previous loss came against Vladimir Klitschko in 2013 through unanimous decision. Saturday’s loss was the first time Povetkin would be knocked out in his career.
Povetkin showed early signs of danger by making Joshua stumble in the first round with a wicked left hook before blood poured out of the nose of the champion but Joshua started to dictate the pace as the rounds went on before going on to overpower and knock Povetkin down to the canvas twice in the seventh round.
Joshua praised the Russian challenger, saying the fight was tough but he was happy to achieve his goal.
“First and foremost, everyone here in Wembley, thank you so much! Alexander Povetkin is a very tough challenger and he proved that tonight but I came in here to have fun, do what I’ve been working on in the gym and I did that.
I knew he was weak to the head, it could have took seven, nine maybe 10 but all my goal tonight was to be successful,” he told Sky Sports.
“These shorter guys are very good coming through the middle but let’s see what happens now on April 13.
There is a lot of pressure; I’m not going to lie to you guys. The whole country is rooting for not just me but David Price, Lawrence Okolie, Matty Askin, Luke Campbell, all of us.
A few years ago maybe I wouldn’t have won that fight but that’s credit to all my coaching team.
“It’s about developing and I am in this game to win it and to learn.
I’m not too fussed who wins.
Good luck to both of them and may the champion bring themselves to the UK and we will have a good dust up