Dillian Whyte moved closer to a fight with WBC champion Deontay Wilder with a punishing sixth-round knockout of Australian Lucas Browne at London’s O2 Arena.
The 29-year-old Briton, who has now lost just once in 24 fights – to Anthony Joshua in 2015, ended Browne’s unbeaten record in compelling fashion.
“I knew this was going to happen. Deontay Wilder where you at? June – let’s go,” he said afterwards.
Browne was treated by ringside medics.
Whyte had vowed to make his opponent bleed and did so in the first round, opening up a cut under the 38-year-old’s left eye that worsened as the fight progressed.
Whyte was totally in control and had former nightclub bouncer Browne, who briefly tried to rally in the third, in trouble throughout with his jab speed and powerful right hand.
It was a left hook that ended the contest and resulted in Browne needing treatment, before eventually getting back to his feet to walk out of the ring after the stoppage.
He was taken to hospital as a precaution.
Whyte, who is ranked number one by the WBC, remains the prime contender for a potentially lucrative contest against that organisation’s high-profile champion Wilder.
Wilder, however, will be ringside at Joshua’s fight with Joseph Parker next week, and could try to pursue a huge unification fight with the winner of that bout.
Fellow heavyweight Tony Bellew said he was relieved Browne, who appeared slow and cumbersome from the second round onwards, was able to walk away.
“I’m just happy Browne has left the ring himself and not on a stretcher,” he tweeted. “Whyte has announced himself on the world scene. Browne is usually an extremely durable man. Wasn’t tonight.”
Whyte said the win proved he can win a world title.
“Hopefully he’s OK, he showed up and tried,” he told Sky Sports. “I proved I’m world class. My training paid off. I’m a good fighter but people haven’t seen it yet.
“I need the challenge there. Lucas Browne thought his power was incredible. I might not have 22 knockouts but I can crack.
“When people stand in front of me it’s a different story. I’m going to lay all of these guys out one by one.
“If Wilder fights anyone else I’m going to go to America and kick off. I just want to fight.”
Whyte had weighed in at 18st 2lbs 2oz, almost eight pounds heavier than when he outpointed British heavyweight Dereck Chisora in a notable 2016 victory, but still lighter than the 18st 11lbs 22oz Browne.
Derek Chisora fights Frenchman Zakaria Azzouzi
Derek Chisora also had an early win in another decisive heavyweight fight
Earlier on Saturday’s undercard, Chisora stopped Frenchman Zakaria Azzouzi with a fierce right hand in the second round.
Chisora, 34, then demanded old rival David Haye put his purse with Bellew on the line in order for him to agree to a fight with Joe Joyce, whom Haye promotes.
“I’ll make a deal with you right now: if he beats me you write me a cheque of £1, if I beat him you give me your purse against Tony and your TV rights,” said Chisora.
Haye declined the offer.
Also on the undercard, Lewis Ritson successfully defended his British lightweight title with a second-round win against former champion Scotty Cardle.
And Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion Callum Johnson added the British belt to his collection by beating Frank Buglioni by technical knockout in the first round.