THREE quarters of the way to immortality, that's where Anthony Joshua stands.
After a severe test from a fleet-footed and horribly awkward Kiwi Joseph Parker, the Brit carried off the third of the four significant world heavyweight title belts.
His quest to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world since Lennox Lewis in 1999 remains on course – but only after he was taken the distance for the first time in his 21-fight professional career.
He called out WBC king Deontay Wilder after his victory, roaring: “Wilder, let’s go baby! Let’s go!
“To beat him? Get him in the ring and knock him spark out.”
This was not a legendary night like the classic victory over Wladimir Klitschko, it was an evening to get business done and win ugly. That is what Joshua did.
There are many who don't even believe the 28-year-old from Watford is the best current British heavyweight – and will not be convinced until such time as he's defeated Tyson Fury, who is now hitting the comeback trail.
In terms of wealth, fame, charisma and popularity, Joshua is on a different level to any other fighter in the blue-riband division.
AJ vs Parker undercard results
This was not a dominant performance to convince those doubters but not everything can be a firework display, even for the pyrotechnic king of British boxing.
Joshua collected the IBF belt from the pantomime champ Charles Martin two years ago and added the vacant WBA title last April in his epic ding-dong with Wladimir Klitschko.
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Now Parker's WBO strap has been ripped from his waist and the final step on Joshua's quest will be the WBC champion Wilder.
Wilder has been mouthing off uncharacteristically of late, is clearly trying to raise a profile which has never befitted his status, even in the States.
The American may yet to have to wait while the various governing bodies have pressed the claims for their mandatory challengers.
Yet before last night he had still boxed only 65 rounds as a pro – his advent had been phenomenally swift, with coach Rob McCracken and others close to him often keen to point out that the 28-year-old is still fighting in L plates.
After an unconvincing 10th-round stoppage of Carlos Takam last time out , Joshua had slimmed down by almost a stone for this, the first world heavyweight unification bout to be held in Britain.
His power still told in the end, even if Joshua couldn't land the knockout blow.
Joshua described these stadium fight nights of his as being like 'national holidays'.
And while he's never going to be the single most celebrated man on Easter weekend, his fame is not far off the sort of levels which once made John Lennon quip that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.
The city-centre location of the Principality Stadium feeds into this sense of occasion – a festival of drinking, fighting and Sweet Caroline-ing.
The welsh capital had been crackling with Joshua-mania since Friday's weigh-in when the Brit had been serenaded by a brass band blaring out his Seven Nation Army theme tune.
Initially forced west by Tottenham's tenancy at Wembley, Joshua has fast become an honorary Welshman.
The 78,000 tickets had been sold out in next to no time and Floyd Mayweather's manager Leonard Ellerbee had been wondering out loud how much wealthier his Money Man would have been had he only been based in Britain.
Joshua has been the spearhead for his nation having a genuine claim to having usurped the United States as the fight capital of the world.
With Sugar Ray Leonard and Frank Bruno among the lords of the ring in attendance, Joshua ambled his way to the ring, through dry ice, flaming AJ initials and bright orange explosions, bumping his gloves against the fists of approximately half of this vast crowd.
Parker came with an impeccable pro record – younger and quicker than Joshua but yet to fight anyone in true world class.
Joshua tested him with several thudding body shots in the opening round but the Kiwi, 26, was landing with some sharp combinations of his own.
In the third, Joshua enjoyed his first meaningful successes, twice rocking Parker back against the ropes.
And in the fourth he hurt the New Zealander with a big left to the body and then a left hook to the head.
By the fifth it was clear Joshua had found himself a very worthy dance partner. After Parker had walked into a heavy jab early on, he forced Joshua to miss several times and was beginning to make the Englishman look untidy.
Parker was evasive and durable, Joshua struggling to nail him with clean shots.
A late uppercut form Joshua, as Italian referee Giuseppe Quartarone tried to separate the fighters, enraged Parker's corner in the seventh.
The ref was beginning to frustrate the crowd by failing to allow the fight to flow – and cut off Joshua in his prime when the Brit had Parker in trouble in the eighth.
Joshua was beginning to get on top by the ninth, yet Parker was remaining a thoroughly difficult customer.
The 11th ended with a withering exchange of blows but neither were setting the night on fire and the crowd was becoming testily quiet.
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