ANTHONY JOSHUA ASCENDED to WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion last night as he fought to a unanimous points victory against Joseph Parker to remain undefeated in his professional career at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
It was the Brit’s 21st successive win but the first by points as New Zealand’s Parker impressively took Joshua the full distance and forced him to be sensible, if a little less spectacular, to get over the line – with the final scorecards reading 118-110, 118-110, 119-109.
Parker’s durability and quick dodging proved effective as this damp squib marathon, if anything, epitomised the growing maturity and practicality of Joshua. The unrelenting barrage of shots to send an opponent into next week have so often characterised Joshua’s boxing record, with all 20 previous bouts being won by knockout, but this climactic cat and mouse final flurry was not present.
Both boxers greeted each other with jabs and body shots in the first round, neither opening themselves up as they got a feel for their opposite number. It wasn’t until rounds four and five that there was a departure away from polite exchanges when Parker used his jab more aggressively and the speed and agility in which the media had framed this fight. Joshua was yet to let loose, perhaps sensing more of a marathon than a sprint.
The bout was ignited when Joshua landed a heavy right hand followed by a left hook before dodging returned efforts from Parker in the sixth round – a time when many of Joshua’s previous opponents had already hit the deck.
Joshua was not standing in front of a swaying figure when the tenth round commenced, but one which gave out as much as it took. Still, however, the intensity was lagging, and you felt that both boxers still had a lot left to give.
Disappointingly, and with arguments that the referee, Giuseppe Quartarone, intervened prematurely set aside, the foregoing rounds were not a slow and tense build-up to a firework final few rounds. There was no big finale. There was no finishing uppercut or decisive knockdown.
Instead of blood, it seemed to be caution that Joshua was smelling as he seemed happy to preserve his points lead in sensible fashion, rather than drop down his guard and let loose as we are so used to see him doing. The reality is that AJ never seemed one or two powerful right hands away from victory. That’s credit to Parker – he presented Joshua with an unprecedented test and can take pride in competing with him throughout.
But none of that will matter to the Joshua camp as they take home three heavyweight belts. It wasn’t a complete obliteration of his opponent, but it was a win and one which he will learn greatly from as his impressive rise continues.
AJ will surely now set up a fight with WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder for the last piece in his growing heavyweight armoury as he searches to become the first man in history to hold all four recognised titles.