By Chris Williamson, photos by Lawrence Lustig & Mark Robinson
Anthony Joshua solidified his position as the number one heavyweight in the world with an absorbing twelve round decision win against Joseph Parker in front of around 80,000 fans here at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
Parker used his jab regularly in the opener, with Joshua controlling the centre of the ring and landing with hooks and body shots. The second followed the same pattern as Parker was active but with Joshua landing with the heavier hooks. Both looked for and narrowly missed with straight right hands.
Parker seemed to hurt Joshua in the third with a left hook after their heads came together but Joshua was by now establishing his own, more powerful jab.
Joshua, who weighed 12 pounds less than for his last defence in this stadium against Carlos Takam, returned the favour in the fourth with his own left hook, possibly the best punch of the fight so far.
By the fifth it was becoming clear Joshua’s punches were faster, more direct and that his more extensive amateur schooling was beginning to tell. Parker was looking visibly diminished, his punches wider, slower and the patient Joshua appeared to be wearing his man down.
A body shot near the end of the seventh seemed to hurt Parker, and sensing this, the WBA/IBF/IBO champ smiled at his opponent as the bell sounded. Joshua hurt Parker more seriously in the eighth with a vicious combination up close and, later with a right uppercut.
Parker a good ninth in what was an excellent technical match.
Joshua started the tenth with a solid left hook before Parker battled back with a sustained body attack. Joshua looked for his almost Lennox Lewis style right uppercut.
Both champions were stung at the end of the eleventh, with Joshua having the last word landing a brutal left hook.
The home fighter took the final round of what was an absorbing technical battle. Joshua, now 21-0, adds the WBO title to his IBO, WBA super and IBF world championships and only victories against Deontay Wilder (WBC champ) and arguably Tyson Fury (lineal but inactive) stand in the way of undisputed status. Joshua went the distance for the first time in his career with the judges scoring 118-110 twice and 119-109.
Parker loses for the first time in a 25 fight career.