Nearly 80,000 passionate souls filled the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales to see the Heavyweight unification bout between Anthony Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) and Joseph Parker (24-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday, March 31, 2018.
Parker, the WBO titleholder, but fight-night underdog, looked to prove himself to the masses by defeating the biggest name in the Heavyweight division. With Joshua eyeing a potential super fight with WBC champion Deontay Wilder, losing was not an option.
After the sound of the opening bell, the bout initiated as a battle of the jabs. Parker circled Joshua for most of the opening rounds looking for a home for his straight right and at times, he found it.
Joshua maintained a relaxed composure and forced Parker onto his back foot often, not letting him settle into any major shot. Most of the opening rounds were competitive, but light in action and drama. By the time the fight reached the midpoint, the action began to escalate.
Parker did a very good job of neutralizing Joshua’s usually thundering offense and helped turn the fight into a disciplined boxing match. The mid-to-late rounds continued to be difficult to score with neither fighter making a true statement or fighting at a torrid pace.
Depending on what you prefer as a judge, the fight could’ve been scored a multitude of ways. Joshua certainly controlled the center of the ring and fought well on the inside, but Parker’s jab and late work to the body certainly merited credit.
In the end, the fighting pride of the UK won via a unanimous decision over three fairly wide scorecards reading 118-110 (twice) and 119-109.
“My strategy was to stick behind the jab,” said Joshua. “The saying goes, the right hand can take you around the block, but a good jab will take you around the world.”
Parker carried an expected tone of disappointment, but gave respect to the new owner of the WBO belt.
“Today I was beaten by a better champion,” said Parker. “No regrets. I’ll take it on the chin and work harder.”
Not quite the performance we expected from AJ, but a win is a win. Now all roads lead to the matchup between Joshua and the “Bronze Bomber” himself.
“Wilder! Let’s do this baby!” exclaimed the unified champ after his victory.
In a perfect world, this fight would take place sometime at the end of 2018, but a lack of negotiations has stalled the dream matchup. With Luis Ortiz and Parker out of the hunt, it’s only a matter of time until the boxing world sees the Heavyweight division back in the limelight with one unified champion.
All photos by Esther Lin/Showtime