Joseph Parker recovered from a knockdown after just seven seconds to earn a split decision over Derek Chisora in their 12-round heavyweight clash in Manchester.
It was a close fight. Chisora dominated early, as he forced Parker, the former WBO champion, back to the ropes and kept the pressure on. But from midway, Parker took charge, as the increasingly tired Chisora struggled to get close.
Howard Foster gave Chisora the victory by 115-113, but the other two judges sided with Parker, Grzegorz Molenda going 116-111 and Andrew Bell going 115-113.
Chisora, 37, once again felt he had been badly treated by the judges, but instantly accepted Parker’s offer of a rematch, adding that he hoped it would take place on the Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua undercard.
“I’m beyond getting upset now,” he said. “It’s difficult because I train hard, I fight, I put the pressure on, I bring everything and this is the treatment I get from boxing.
“My last fight was the same thing again, this fight was the same thing again. I think they don’t like me. I can’t get upset because it is just horrible.
“If Joseph wants to give me a rematch, I’ll take the rematch – easy. I won the fight. Even his coach, Andy Lee, said I won the fight. I will not let them slow me down, we will go again. They want to see me retire but I will not retire yet.”
It was the fourth time Parker had boxed in the UK, his only previous win coming when he retained his WBO heavyweight title in the same Manchester Arena against Hughie Fury. After that, he was comfortably outpointed by Joshua before losing to Dillian Whyte, a fight that turned against him when he was controversially knocked down by what, television replays showed, was a clash of heads.
But, at 29, Parker was in need of a good win to re-establish his own world title credentials. For this fight, he had split with Kevin Barry, who had trained him his entire professional career, to team up with Andy Lee, the former WBO middleweight champion. Chisora had a new man in his corner too, after bringing in Buddy McGirt, the experienced American.
There was a terrible start for Parker, who was caught cold, as he was knocked down inside the first ten seconds, as an overhand right caught him on the side of the head, although the New Zealander looked at the floor as if he believed he had slipped. Parker came back well, though, as he was light on his feet and used his jab well.
There was little nuance to Chisora’s work, as he came forward throwing big, looping hooks to head and body, but it was effective. Parker struggled to keep him off and backed up against the ropes was the last place the New Zealander wanted to be.
There was a better fifth round by Parker, who mostly kept Chisora at arm’s length and landed clean with a heavy right hook. The sixth and seventh rounds went to Parker too, as Chisora started to slow and found himself in the way of the New Zealander’s shots.
In the eighth round, Parker stood and traded with Chisora and was driving him back at the final bell. Chisora seemed to be gasping for air in his corner, while Parker still seemed reasonable fresh. As he slowed, Chisora looked a step slower, which led to him taking shots as he tried to crowd in close.
In the eleventh, Chisora ducked into a Parker uppercut and backed away for the first time. The North Londoner was starting to look exhausted, although he raised a final effort in the last round, landing two big overhand rights in the opening seconds. Parker fired back, though, knocking Chisora back into the ropes with two left hooks and then landed a heavy right.
Parker seemed far from sure he had done enough to win.
“It was a tough fight, I got caught right at the beginning, I just had to dig deep and stay focussed,” Parker said. “Derek is a very tough opponent, he came forward and put pressure on me from the beginning, threw big bombs and landed – a lot.
“The boxing skills from the middle rounds towards the end [made the difference] but it was a very close fight. I thought it could go either way.
“He brought the smoke. If you want to feel it, jump in the ring with him.”
Yet Parker said he still believes he can become a two-time world champion and says he has plenty still to learn.
“It’s very achievable, I just have to get back to training,” he said. “There are a lot of things I have to work on. There is still a lot I have got to show, I just have to keep working on it with Andy.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.