Joseph Parker truly enjoyed a hero’s welcome back home.
The former WBO heavyweight titlist over countryman and former amateur rival Junior Fa. Parker claimed a 12-round unanimous decision in their long-awaited clash Saturday evening (local time) at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.
Scores were 115-113, 117-111 and an investigation-worthy 119-109 in favor of Parker, in their DAZN/Spark Sport-aired main event.
South Auckland's Parker controlled the early action, putting his superior boxing skills to use. Auckland's Fa sent a reminder of the danger he brings to the table, briefly wobbling Parker with a left hook late in the opening round.
The ship was quickly righted by Parker in round two, establishing his straight right hand which found its target on several occasions. Fa took the shots well, though was unable to respond in kind.
Parker drew a rise out of the capacity crowd on hand with an overhand right in round three. Fa was briefly stunned but remained upright and even managed to respond with a straight right of his own later in the frame. Parker connected with a left hook along the ropes just before the ten-second warning to end the round.
After falling behind in a developing boxing match in rounds four and five, Fa came out with a sharp right hand to begin round six. Parker quickly adapted, shooting his jab and following with right hands to the body. Fa connected with another right hand upstairs, prompting Parker to tie up his countryman.
Clinching marred the middle rounds, forcing locally-based referee John Conway—a former middleweight and light heavyweight—to frequently intervene. Fa—who was forced to fight with a cut just outside his left eye—continued to land the more telling blows, while Parker was the busier of the two when their hands were free.
Parker provided a dramatic turn in round nine, briefly stunning Fa with a right hand upstairs. More of the same in round ten caused Fa’s cut to bust open. Fa was not without his moments, using a pawing jab to set up a straight right hand to snap back the head of Parker.
Just as action once again picked up, the fight reverted back to a clinchfest in the final two rounds. Both boxers were guilty of frequent holding, dampening the energy provided by the otherwise enthusiastic crowd. The services of the referee were frequently required, with neither boxer enjoying any momentum shifts. Parker attempted to let his hands go in the closing seconds, with one more clinch marring the local attraction.
Fa offered a credible account of himself in what was a step up in class. However, it results in his first career defeat as the 31-year old heavyweight falls to 19-1 (10KOs).
Parker picks up his fourth straight win as he improves to 28-2 (21KOs). The 29-year old remains in pursuit of past glory, having claimed the WBO heavyweight title in a 12-round majority decision win over Andy Ruiz in their Dec. 2016 vacant title fight between unbeaten contenders.
Two defenses followed before dropping a 12-round unanimous decision to Anthony Joshua in their March 2018 unification clash between undefeated titlists. Parker came up just short in his following bout, a points loss to Dillian Whyte in July 2018 before returning home later that year with a 3rd round knockout of Alexander Flores in their Dec. 2018 headliner in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Parker fought twice in the United States and regularly trains in Las Vegas, though returned home at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and remained put for training camp in preparation of this celebrated event. The show came right on time, as local authorities announced another one-week lockdown due to a recent COVID outbreak.
Also on the card, unbeaten heavyweight Hemi Ahio (17-0, 12KOs) survived a knockdown in round four to drop and stop 7’1” journeyman Julius Long in the 7th round of their chief support. A left hook put Long flat on his back late in round seven, with his corner literally throwing in the towel immediately thereafter.
The show also included John Parker, Joseph’s brother who scored a four-round unanimous decision over pro debuting Egelani Taito. Also turning pro was David Nyika (1-0, 1KO), a 6’6” cruiserweight who scored a 29-second knockout of Jesse Maio (3-1, 1KO). Nyika will represent New Zealand in the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics later this summer.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox