Anthony Joshua unifies heavyweight world titles with win over Joseph Parker in Cardiff

Anthony Joshua unifies heavyweight world titles with win over Joseph Parker in Cardiff

By Dewi Powell: Watford’s Anthony Joshua (21-0, 20KO) was extended to the final bell for the first time in his professional career as he overcame Joseph Parker (24-1, 18KO) to unify three world heavyweight titles.

The unanimous decision victory came courtesy of 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109 scorecards, which were wider than many observers felt fair, though few will dispute that Joshua deserved to walk away with the International Boxing Federation [IBF], World Boxing Association [WBA] and World Boxing Organisation [WBO] titles in his possession.

The opening two rounds saw a tense stand off, each taking their turn to find the range with their respective jabs. Parker undeniably looked quicker, though neither boxer brokethrough with any significant shots as they stayed disciplined, refusing to be drawn in.

The action warmed up in the third round and their increase in enthusiasm led to a head clash as both dived in. Keen to build on his forward momentum, Joshua came out for the fourth round with more menace. A noticeable and measured right cross sent spray from Parker’s head and it appeared the champion had found his rhythm.

With Joshua’s position on the front foot now established, Parker made a blatant attempt to disrupt it in the fifth round. Joshua escaped to the edges of the ring and when a clinch was broken up, they met in the middle of the ring. It resulted in even exchanges, each landing flush with their backhand.

Parker’s first sustained came at the halfway mark and it awakened the crowd. The New Zealander rushed Joshua at the start of the round and finish it by backing up the Englishman, making him hesitate by landing punishing right hands.

Referee Giuseppe Quartarone was called in to action in the seventh round. Joshua appeared frustrated and hit as the referee called break – an offence he has history for. It enraged Parker’s corner and their point was well made.

As the duo approached the championship rounds, the action had unfolded more evenly than expected. Parker had been adept in stifling Joshua’s reach advantage, also managing to find holes around his opponent’s high guard up close. It was far from the dominant performance most bookmakers had priced and a nervous atmosphere spread to the 78,000 attendees.

Parker was leaking from a cut eye in the 11th round, which replays later showed was caused by an accidental elbow from Joshua. Slightly distressed, he spent much of the session in retreat and was forced to suck up a heavy left hook for his troubles.

Joshua entered the final round needing a knockout to preserve his 100% knockout ratio and Parker needed the same outcome to be sure of a victory. However, what unfolded was a continuation of their tense standoff and a highlight reel finish evaded both. The visible difference was Joshua’s extra aggression, however slight that was.

Joshua brought his IBF and WBA titles to the ring and Parker held a third version, coming courtesy of the WBO. It was the first world heavyweight title unification between two unbeaten champions since Mike Tyson defeated Tony Tucker in 1987.

It was Joshua’s second appearance at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium in five months having stopped mandatory challenger Carlos Takam (35-4-1, 27KO) in 11 rounds in October. In that time, the 28-year-old has attracted almost 160,000 ticket buying fans to the Welsh capital.

Eyebrows were raised at Friday’s weigh-in, which was held in front of 4,000 fans at the Motorpoint Arena, when both tipped the scales considerably lighter than previously seen. Joshua, trained by Robert McCracken at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, weighed 242lbs and Parker, trained by 1984 Olympic Games silver medallist Kevin Barry, was lighter again at 237lbs. It was a reflection of their aim to utilise speed and movement, an aspect that has been missing from both of their last performances.

The contest was broadcast to countries all over the world, including Sky Box Office in the United Kingdom and Showtime Sports in America. The global appeal drew the eyes of casual and hardcore boxing fans to the Principality Stadium for the first time since Joe Calzaghe’s world super-middleweight title unification with Mikkel Kessler in 2007.

Fans have called on the winner to face America’s Deontay Wilder, who owns an astonishing 40-0, 39KO record and the World Boxing Council [WBC] belts, in a unification of all four world titles. The ‘Bronze Bomber’ had been due to be ringside but decided against it when it emerged the organisers wouldn’t allow him in the ring during post-fight interviews.

Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, who hosted the event, may be returning to Cardiff in the near future. understands that there’s the possibility of a #JDNxtGen show being held at the Ice Arena Wales in Cardiff Bay before the summer, featuring up-and-comers including Joe Cordina.

Results from the full card:

  • Alexander Povetkin (33-1, 23KO) beat David Price (22-4, 18KO) via fifth round knockout at heavyweight.
  • Ryan Burnett (18-0, 9KO) beats Yonfrez Parejo (21-3-1, 10KO) via unanimous decision (120-108, 120-108, 116-112) for the IBF world bantamweight title.
  • Anthony Crolla (33-6-3, 13KO) beat Edson Ramirez (18-3-1, 8KO) via unanimous decision (100-91, 100-90, 98-92) at lightweight.
  • Josh Kelly (6-0, 4KO) beat Carlos Molina (28-9-2, 8KO) via unanimous decision (98-92, 98-92, 99-91) for the WBA International welterweight title.
  • Joe Cordina (7-0, 6KO) beat Hakim Ben Ali (19-6, 1KO) via third round Technical Knockout for the WBA International lightweight title.
  • Joshua Buatsi (5-0, 3KO) beat Bartlomiej Grafka (20-29-3, 9KO) via six round decision (60-54) at light-heavyweight.
  • Mose Auimtagi Jnr (10-2-1, 6KO) beat Morgan Jones (12-1, 5KO) via sixth round Technical Knockout at super-middleweight.

Image by Huw Fairclough.

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