Anthony Joshua unified the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight titles as a controlled performance saw him earn a unanimous points win over Joseph Parker at a tense Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
The Briton used his left hand to telling effect throughout an intriguing affair, in which New Zealand’s Parker displayed swift hands, movement and impressive durability.
But his WBO title always looked like it would end up round Joshua’s waist as a significant points gap opened up, with the favourite landing a hard left uppercut in round eight and two stinging left hooks early in the 10th.
Parker tagged his rival to howls of concern in the 11th and he deserves immense respect for becoming the first man to take Joshua to the scorecards, which read 118-110 118-110 119-109.
Wilder clash edges closer
Those close to Joshua describe his tendency to return from a fight with improved knowledge of what he wants to change about his preparation next time.
This time, weight was an issue and cutting his lightest frame since 2014, he looked more comfortable than when he stopped Carlos Takam at this stadium in October.
He maintained a healthy pace late on and his two-inch height advantage was expertly deployed as the “glass chin” Parker’s camp claimed to believe the home fighter possessed never really came under substantial threat.
There were forays from Parker but each time he was forced to dive in, leaving him exposed to a couple of left uppercuts and hooks.
Some on social media criticised the officiating for preventing either man from fighting at close quarters. The frustration was understandable but, with Parker repeatedly diving in, his attacks often produce a grapple that needed breaking up.
Joshua seemed to care little, as he took the chance to call out WBC title holder Deontay Wilder – who turned down an invitation to be ringside. The already loud calls for them to meet will grow louder. Can either really turn down the chance to become the first man in history to hold all four titles?
Only boxing politics, purse splits and ego can get in the way. Wilder will probably point to the fact his rival failed to score a stoppage. But Joshua’s camp might just as well feel going the distance is a positive if such a landmark bout is to come next.
The knockout run has ended. But Joshua’s rise to supremacy looks increasingly difficult to stop.