Anthony Joshua predicted a ninth-round knockout against Joseph Parker on Saturday in the second heavyweight unification bout between unbeaten fighters in boxing history.
The Englishman failed to get the KO, but Joshua did get the victory, a unanimous decision over New Zealand’s Parker before more than 80,000 partisan fans at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The fight was televised in the U.S. by Showtime.
It was far from an action-packed fight, instead becoming a mostly technical boxing match from the opening bell, with few heavy exchanges, and a referee, Giuseppe Quartarone, who strangely stopped the action at odd times. Even Showtime blow-by-blow announcer Mauro Ranallo said at one point, “What the hell is going on with this referee?”
Both fighters fought behind their job effectively, and it was Joshua who looked like the pursuer as Parker spent much of the fight retreating. Joshua rarely led with his right hand, instead saving it for sporadic inside uppercut attempts, only a few of which landed solidly. Neither fighter was able to get much offense going over the 12 rounds, a nod to the effectiveness of the jabbing strategy.
The 6-foot-6 Joshua used his six-inch reach advantage to outland Parker 93-49 in jabs despite throwing 46 fewer, according to CompuBox statistics. The jab comprised 70.5% of Joshua’s total punch output while it made up 64.2% of Parker’s total punch output.
The three ringside judges scored it 118-110 twice and 119-109 for Joshua. The fight appeared to be closer than the scoring indicated, though many rounds could have gone either way.
With the victory, Joshua added Parker’s WBO belt to his WBA and IBF belts. It was the first time in his professional career that Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) has gone the distance. Parker fell to 24-1 with 18 KOs.
“My strategy was to stick behind the jab,” Joshua said. “It’s one of the most important weapons we have . . . the old saying is a right hand will take you around the block but a good jab will take you around the world.
“So I stuck behind the jab and made sure that anything coming back, I was switched on, I was focused and (it went) 12 rounds baby. . . . Joseph Parker is a world champion so I knew he was going to be determined.
“Sometimes it does become a boxing match, not a fight. I said this would be about boxing finesse.”
Parker praised his opponent and said he would be back.
Joshua said he wanted to fight unbeaten WBC champion Deontay Wilder of the U.S. at some point to see who will become the undisputed champion. “I will knock him the spark out,” Joshua said.
At one point he said he would either like to fight Wilder or Tyson Fury, the British former champion who has not fought since defeating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
Joshua-Wilder is likely to happen within the next year, but unlikely to be next on either fighter’s docket. And Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn said it would have to happen in England. Wilder has said he would have no problem crossing the Atlantic to fight Joshua in what is expected be one of the biggest heavyweight fights of all time.