In just the second heavyweight unification bout between unbeaten champions in boxing history, Anthony Joshua cruised to a unanimous decision victory in a fight that produced more questions than answers about his ability.
Joshua, the WBA and IBF champion, went the distance for the first time in his career but failed to impress in a boring 12-round effort against WBO champion Joseph Parker in front of over 78,000 fans at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The attendance broke an indoor record for boxing, eclipsing Joshua’s victory over Carlos Takam in the same arena last October.
Despite what appeared to be a relatively close and uneventful bout, Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) received the benefit of wide scorecards (119-109, 118-110 twice) in his native Great Britain. CBS Sports had it 116-112 for Joshua, who unified three of the four recognized heavyweight titles.
Joshua, 28, landed the harder shots against the quicker Parker (24-1, 18 KOs), who was content to box from distance. But Joshua allowed the fight to be fought at his opponent’s pace and style. He also rarely took any chances despite outlanding Parker, 139 to 101, according to CompuBox.
“I’m not going to make an analysis of my performance, that’s for my coach to do,” Joshua said. “My strategy in there was kind of to stick behind the jab. That’s one of the old sayings — the right hand can take you around the block but a good jab will take you around the world. That secured another world championship belt so I stuck behind the jab and I made sure anything that was coming back, I was switched on and was focused.
“And 12 rounds baby, I thought [going the distance] was hard, right? Light work. This is boxing, this is what we do.”
Parker did the majority of his work to the body but was never able to hurt his opponent. Joshua, meanwhile, seemed to settle in after a slow start once he committed to his jab, which he held a 93 to 49 advantage with throughout the fight.
The fight was largely void of action, save for an exciting sixth round in which they traded power shots along the ropes. But even that sequence was instantly snuffed out by referee Giuseppe Quartarone, who continually robbed the fight of any excitement by constantly breaking them apart.
Although Joshua seemed to take a step back in terms of his overall stock with the performance, he was proud of the patience and boxing acumen he showed.
“Forget the hype, Joseph Parker is a world champion so I knew he was going to be determined,” Joshua said. “Sometimes, this does become a boxing match and not a fight. So I made sure this will be about boxing finesse. Joseph Parker stated this will be a war and I stated that this will be boxing finesse. I stuck to my word and I controlled it behind my jab and the counter punching. The main thing we can’t forget is I am the unified heavyweight champion of the world.”
Parker, 26, the youngest of current world champions, refused to blame the referee or anyone else for the defeat.
“Today, I got beaten by a better champion and a bigger man,” Parker said. “I have a lot to work on and it was a good experience being here. I want to go back, train hard and come back stronger. No regrets, take it on the chin. He was the better man today and we will be back again.
“[I need to] work harder, come back stronger with more punches. Just back to the drawing board. I’m young, fit, strong and I didn’t go down. I’m fit to go more rounds. We could’ve worked on inside more but whatever happened here [with the referee], happened. We can’t change it.”
Talk after the bout instantly shifted to whether Joshua will look to become the undisputed heavyweight champion by facing WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), who was fresh off a comeback TKO of Luis Ortiz for the biggest win of his career on March 3.
“One-hundred [percent], one-hundred,” Joshua said, when asked if he wanted the fight. “You are asking me, do I want to become undisputed heavyweight champion in the world? IBF, WBO, WBA — 21 professional fights, six world championship fights. Does that not tell you where I’m going? Forget the hype, I’m not into that. Everyone here knows me better than that. I’m not into the hype, I’m about business. So let’s get the business done. I’m down to ride for whenever and whatever.”
Joshua said he would let his promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, work with Wilder’s team to produce a deal. The problem with those quotes have been the hot-and-cold responses from both Joshua and Hearn in recent months as to whether they actually want the fight next or would prefer to wait until 2019.
Asked to give a message to Wilder, Joshua screamed into the microphone, ” Let’s go baby! Let’s go!” But he also offered an alternative plan when asked later in the interview who he wants to face next.
“Wilder or [Tyson] Fury, either one,” Joshua said. “What would I have to do to beat Wilder? Get him in the ring and I’ll knock his spark out.”
Fury (25-0, 18 KOs) remains the lineal champion despite having given up his trio of world titles two years ago in order to deal with mental heath and substance abuse issues. Despite ballooning up in weight, he expects to make a comeback later this year.
“On this side of the pond, we are serious,” Joshua said. “UK and Great Britain boxing is on the map and we are representing. We are not satisfied, one step at a time. Even though I’m not a finished article, we’re at the pinnacle of boxing, so it is what it is. I’ve always jumped in at the deep end and I’m ready to swim and take these chances. You know what they say, ‘no risk and no reward.'”
Should Joshua end up facing Wilder, he talked about his preference for the much-anticipated bout between unbeatens to take place in his home country.
“All these years the U.K. fighters have to go America and all these people have to spend a ton of money to go to Vegas,” Joshua said. “We can do it here around Wembley [Stadium in London] or Cardiff. It’s local. We are staying right here, we are staying right here, we are staying right here.”
While Hearn maintained that Wilder could be next, he gave comments that conflicted with that of Wilder’s team regarding whether the two sides have ever spoken about signing a deal in the past.
“It’s realistic from our side,” Hearn said. “[Joshua] has 21 fights and [three] belts. Deontay Wilder was supposed to be here tonight but he pulled out. Last fight he boxed in front of 6-7,000. Show Deontay Wilder what 80,000 sounds like.
“They don’t want it. They have never approached us. [Joshua] is here, he fights older champions, he wins all of the belts. At 22 fights, he has a chance to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Don’t forget how fast he is moving. Deontay Wilder’s people don’t contact us, they don’t want to know. He talks the talk but can’t walk the walk and like Anthony said he will get knocked spark out.”