Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker has defended his actions in the ring, after being warned twice by the referee for throwing low blows during his win over Alexander Flores on Saturday (NZ time).
Parker ended his 2018 campaign in style, as he knocked out his Mexican-American opponent in the third round, but his win in Christchurch has been marred with controversy.
Parker was warned twice by referee John Conway about throwing below-the-belt punches - one more warning would have likely seen a point taken from the New Zealander's scorecard.
But that didn't seem to worry the 26-year-old, who claimed his first knockout win since beating Alexander Dimitrenko more than two years ago in his first fight in New Zealand in 18 months.
"There were a couple of blows that were low, yeah," Parker said. "It wasn't intentional.
"I knew there were a few, but he didn't get knocked out by a body shot. It was a head shot."
Flores said he was surprised by Parker's tactics in the ring and disappointed he had to resort to them to get the win.
"Hats off to Parker, he did what was needed for the win, but unfortunately he had to do it the incorrect way," Flores told Newshub.
"He kept hitting me low. It wasn't a couple of times, it was three or four times.
"He hit me with a left uppercut and my hand went down, and he caught me with a stray right and he had to do it that way to win the fight.
"Being aggressive as a fighter is one thing, but being aggressive and fouling that is not right. From a former world champion, I was surprised with the way he fought."
Parker's trainer, Kevin Barry, was positive the low blows would not take the gloss off the win, saying it silenced critics who claimed his fighter was too nice.
"He didn't knock him out with a low blow - he knocked him out with right hand to the chin that spun his eyes to the back of his head and he was down for about two minutes with his eye split open. That's a pretty decent couple of punches for me."
Parker has been heavily criticised in the past for being a 'nice guy', critics saying he must drop that image if he wants to compete with the best in the division again.
Parker, the former WBO heavyweight champion, has had a disappointing year, losing high-profile bouts on points against British duo Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, but the win over Flores takes his record to 25-2.
"There was a lot of soul-searching after the last fight in London against Dillian Whyte," Barry added. "A lot of people questioned Joe and said there's not enough mongrel in him."
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