It lacked sustained action—and even decent officiating on either side of the ropes—and he was forced to go the distance for the first time in his career, but it's still a win and another title for Anthony Joshua.
The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist for Great Britain is now a three-belt titlist (four if you count the IBO) after outpointing Joseph Parker over 12 rounds Saturday evening in Cardiff, Wales.
Scores were 118-110 (twice) and 119-109 for Joshua (21-0, 20 KO's), who collects the WBO title while defending his WBA and IBF heavyweight straps. The night marked the first time in his pro career that the hulking Brit was forced to go to the scorecards, snapping a 20-fight knockout streak.
Parker (24-1, 17 KO's) ends a disappointing title reign that began with a narrow win over Andy Ruiz in their vacant title fight in Dec. '16, followed by pedestrian-like wins over Razvan Cojanu and Hughie Fury for his lone two successful defenses.
The pace in those bouts served as part of his strategy in neutralizing Joshua's power in just the second-ever title unification clash between unbeaten heavyweights. Parker was successful in avoiding Joshua's detonating uppercut for most of the evening, frustrating the UK superstar with a steady jab and well-time head movement.
Unfortunately, Parker's preference of fighting off his back foot did not resonate with the three judges, winning only a total of five out of 36 combined rounds on the three cards.
It wasn't exactly a night for the time capsule for Joshua, but his activity from bell to bell was enough to impress the ringside scorers. in defense of both boxers, any threat of offense was thwarted by overzealous and unqualified referee Giuseppe Quartarone, who constantly separated the fighters without allowing them to fight out of even the most subtle clinches.
Still, as he was on the road in front of a roaring crowd of 80,000 or so, the onus was on Parker to press the action or at least box well enough to bank rounds if he were to back up any claims of forcing a war and pulling off a massive upset. Instead, the New Zealand-bred Samoan boxer all but shut down over the course of the second half of the contest, allowing Joshua to remain unbeaten and running his record to 6-0 (5KOs) in title fights dating back to his 2nd round knockout of Charles Martin nearly two years ago.
The win was Joshua's second straight at the avenue, and his last three contests—including his epic off-the-canvas knockout win over Wladimir Klitshcko in their 2017 Fight of the Year winner last April—drawing more than 250,000 fans.
“My strategy in there was stick behind the jab, it’s one of the most important weapons,” said Joshua. “As the saying goes, a good right hand can take you around the block, but a good jab can take you around the world.
“And 12 rounds, baby, I thought it was hard, right? Light work. It’s light. Forget the hype, Joseph Parker is a world champion so I knew he would be determined. I knew this would be a boxing match, not a fight. Joseph Parker stated this would be a war, I said it would be boxing finesse, and I stuck to my word.”