A valiant Joseph Parker has fallen short in his bid to become the unified heavyweight world champion, falling to Anthony Joshua by unanimous decision in their title bout in Cardiff.
The British phenom was a cut above throughout the contest, his class shining through as he dictated proceedings from the opening to closing bell in front of 80,000 rabid fans at Principality Stadium.
The victory makes Joshua the lineal heavyweight champion after he added Parker's WBO belt to the IBO, WBA, and IBF belts he already owns. It also sets up a highly-anticipated showdown with WBC champ, Deontay Wilder and with it a chance to become the division's undisputed king.
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It may have been a losing effort, but the South Aucklander clearly earned the respect of his highly-decorated opponent. Parker never relented in what was an increasingly uphill battle, and became the first fighter to ever go the full 12 rounds against the former Olympic champion.
The Kiwi certainly had his moments, most notably in the fifth and sixth rounds, although those were likely the only two to go in his favour.
"Today I got beaten by a better champion, a bigger man," Parker said immediately following the fight.
"I'm going to go back, train hard, plan again, and come back even stronger. No regrets, I’m taking it on the chin."
Joshua’s reach advantage combined with his clinical use of the jab proved too much for Parker to overcome, and while the Kiwi landed sporadically, he struggled to close the distance enough to land consistently and inflict the damage he needed to.
Joshua controlled the distance expertly, staying just beyond Parker's punches while countering effectively to the body. Parker, who at no stage seemed overawed by the occasion, threw plenty with power but most fell well short of their mark.
"Forget the hype, Joseph Parker is a world champion, so I knew he was going to be determined," said Joshua.
"Joseph Parker stated this was going to be a war, and I stated it was going to be about boxing finesse, and I stuck to my word."
As the contest entered its middle rounds the Kiwi began to find some rhythm, forcing the Brit to miss and replying with some success.
In the sixth round Parker had his best moments as he ramped up his work rate, catching the Brit with two overhand rights which had Joshua retreating.
However Joshua's over-bearing size began to take its toll, and the referee's quick interjection at any sign of a clinch nullified the Kiwi's ability to do any significant damage inside and played right into his opponent’s hands.
As the bout went into its final stretch Joshua never wavered from his game plan, clinically racking up points and rounds while maintaining his pace.
To his credit, Parker never waned, keeping his output high and showing no sign of a depleting gas tank. Despite the absence of any genuinely decisive shots from either fighter, when the final bell rang there was only ever one winner.