Since Lennox Lewis unified the heavyweight boxing title in April 2000, after defeating Evander Holyfield, there has not been another undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world. However, last Saturday, Nigerian-born Anthony Joshua defeated Joseph Parker to move closer to becoming the first undisputed world champion since 2000. With the four titles in his grip, his attention is now on Deontay Wilderâ€™s WBC title, writes Kunle Adewale
Anthony Joshua predicted a ninth-round knockout against Joseph Parker in the second heavyweight unification bout between unbeaten fighters in boxing history. The Englishman failed to get the KO, but he got the victory, a unanimous decision over New Zealand’s Parker before more than 80,000 partisan fans at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales last Saturday.
It was far from an action-packed fight, instead becoming a mostly technical boxing match from the opening bell, with few heavy exchanges, and a referee, Giuseppe Quartarone, who strangely stopped the action at odd times. Even Showtime blow-by-blow announcer, Mauro Ranallo, said at one point, “What the hell is going on with this referee?”
Both fighters fought behind their jab effectively, and it was Joshua who looked like the pursuer as Parker spent much of the fight retreating. Joshua rarely led with his right hand, instead saving it for sporadic inside uppercut attempts, only a few of which landed solidly. Neither fighter was able to get much offense going over the 12 rounds, a nod to the effectiveness of the jabbing strategy.
The six-foot-six Joshua used his six-inch reach advantage to outland Parker 93-49 in jabs despite throwing 46 fewer, according to CompuBox statistics.
The ringside judges scored itÂ 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109 for Joshua. The fight appeared to be closer than the scoring indicated, though many rounds could have gone either way.
With the victory, Joshua added Parker’s WBO belt to his WBA, IBO and IBF belts. It was the first time in his professional career that Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs) has gone the distance. Parker fell to 24-1 with 18 KOs.
“My strategy was to stick behind the jab,” Joshua said. “It’s one of the most important weapons we have . . . the old saying is a right hand will take you around the block but a good jab will take you around the world.
“So I stuck behind the jab and made sure that anything coming back, I was switched on, I was focused and it went 12 rounds baby. . . . Joseph Parker is a world champion so I knew he was going to be determined.
“Sometimes it does become a boxing match, not a fight. I said this would be about boxing finesse.”
Parker praised his opponent and said he would be back.
Joshua said he wanted to fight unbeaten WBC champion Deontay Wilder of the U.S. at some point to see who will become the undisputed champion. “I will knock him the spark out,” Joshua said.
At one point he said he would either like to fight Wilder or Tyson Fury, the British former champion who has not fought since defeating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
Joshua-Wilder is likely to happen within the next year, but unlikely to be next on either fighter’s docket. And Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn said it would have to happen in England. Wilder has said he would have no problem crossing the Atlantic to fight Joshua in what is expected be one of the biggest heavyweight fights of all time.
Joshua took the chance to call out WBC title holder Deontay Wilder – who turned down an invitation to be at ringside. The already loud calls for them to meet will grow louder. Can either really turn down the chance to become the first man in history to hold all four titles?
Only boxing politics, purse splits and ego can get in the way. Wilder will probably point to the fact thatÂ his rival failed to score a stoppage. But Joshua’s camp might just as well feel going the distance is a positive if such a landmark bout is to come next.
The knockout run has ended. But Joshua’s rise to supremacy looks increasingly difficult to stop.
Indeed, the performance might have encouraged Wilder to put pen to paper quicker than expected.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Joshua said: “This was about boxing finesse – I stuck to my word. I know what it takes to be a champion. Parker said he wanted a war, but it was all about boxing finesse. The main thing we cannot forget is that I am the unified heavyweight champion of the world.”
Asked if he would fight in the United States, he said: “I’m not interested in going to America. All these years, we’ve gone to the States, people have spent a lot of money following British boxers over there. But we can do it in London, Cardiff. We are staying right here.
“I want Wilder or Fury. Get him (Wilder) in the ring and I’ll knock him spark out.”
Former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis posted: “#JoshuaParker wasn’t the scrap I’d hoped it would be but AJ fought well and smart. Kept JP at end of jab. Ref seemed too hurried to break them up at times…but it was a clear win for AJ and he showed maturity and patience.”
However, some Nigerians regret the fact that it is United Kingdom and not Nigeria that is celebrating Joshua today had it been his attemptÂ to compete in the colours of Nigeria at the 2008 Beijing Olympics had not been frustrated.
â€œJoshua really wanted to represent Nigeria at the 2008 Olympics but Obisia Nwankpa and Samson Arashola deprived him of the opportunity. But now Britain is enjoying what Nigeria should be celebrating,â€ Okorodudu said.
Meanwhile,Â Obisia Nwankpa debunked Okoroduduâ€™s claim that he frustrated Joshua in his attempt to represent Nigeria at the 2008 Olympics.
â€œHis (Joshua) case is not the first. Weâ€™ve had similar cases like that before. Most athletes that live or born abroad, anytime they want to represent Nigeria they do not go about it in the right way. Moreover, they believe by virtue of having lived abroad they could just walk into the team without going through the trials. That is not acceptable,â€ Obisia said.
The man who was called golden gloves because of his finesse in the ring said it was impossible for Joshua to make the Nigerian 2008 Olympic team with the presence of Olarewaju Durodola in the team.
â€œAs at 2008, we had a boxer that was very strong called Durodola and at that time Joshua was not better than him. Even the fact that he won a world title does not translate to his being better than Durodola. He just happened to have a faster shot at the title by virtue of living in the United Kingdom, where there are opportunities. Durodola only moved to America recently and he is now the World Boxing Association, WBA, number two contender,â€ the former Commonwealth champion said.
Joshua was born in Watford to a Nigerian mother and a father of Nigerian and Irish descent. He grew up for much of his early years in Nigeria and returned to the UK to join Kings Langley Secondary School. Growing up on the Meriden Estate in Garston, Hertfordshire, Joshua was called ‘Femi’ by his friends and former teachers, due to his middle name ‘Oluwafemi’. He excelled at football and athletics.