Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker result: Joshua taken the distance for the first time in points win

Joshua unified the WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight world titles with a gruelling points victory over the dogged Parker

Anthony Joshua eyes up showdown with Deontay Wilder

For how long will Anthony Joshua be allowed to enjoy this gritty, gruelling victory, in the first heavyweight unification fight ever held on British soil?

Joseph Parker, a previously undefeated world champion who nevertheless arrived on these shores the overwhelming underdog, became the first man to take Joshua the distance in his professional career and even briefly threatened to drag him into deep water. But after the unanimous points verdict was announced, it took mere minutes for his efforts to be forgotten and talk to switch unceremoniously to that one remaining feudal lord of the division: Deontay Wilder.

“Wilder. Let's go baby, let's go,” shouted Joshua from inside the ring, to the raucous delight of some 80,000 brylcreemed boyos. “I don’t believe the hype around him. Let’s get the business done and let's see what the future holds because I'm down for whatever, whenever. Get him in the ring and I'll knock him spark out.”

Such is the life of a heavyweight champion and the golden boy of British boxing. This was another promising performance from Joshua, who weighed in almost a stone lighter than when he beat Carlos Takam back in October. And worryingly for the likes of Wilder, Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte and, yes, even Tyson Fury; he is getting better. Pre-fight doubts over his ‘glass jaw’ and gas tank were most emphatically debunked.

For all the excitement and considerable glitz and glamour of having three major world titles up for grabs — four if you count the much-maligned IBO strap — this fight always felt like something of a procession for Joshua, certainly ahead of the first bell. “The Road to Undisputed” ran the billing. Joshua’s journey remains on track. Parker, shorn of his WBO belt but aged just 26, will need time to regroup, to recalibrate and to come again.

“I lost to the better champion tonight,” he remarked modestly in the ring after his maiden defeat, as the half-interested, moderately satisfied crowd made quick for the illuminated exits, in search of a portion of chips and perhaps even some violence of their own. “We will come back again stronger and I am happy that I went the twelve rounds.”

Joshua started the fight confidently

Parker’s boxing ability had been severely underestimated in the build-up to this fight. After all, as Steve Bunce noted in his fight preview, “Joshua is beatable and far from the finished product — something that is constantly overlooked to please, to promote and to create a great fighter with a global image”. But although the barrel-chested boy from South Auckland demonstrated a wincing capacity to weather Joshua’s biggest shots, he started the fight too slowly and failed to force the question.

The opening few seconds were decent enough, granted, as Parker flicking out his sharp left jab, which spat out like a snake’s tongue and caused Joshua some momentary discomfort. But then Joshua took up position in the centre of the ring. And from that position he went on comfortably dominate the first four rounds, his superior reach and jabbing ability keeping Parker sternly on the back foot, a Takam with a bauble.

In the Kiwi’s corner, Kevin Barry was experienced enough to know where this one was headed. After the fight, in some stuffy bowel of the Principality with a solid row of video cameras directed at him and his man, Barry admitted Parker had lost all of these opening rounds. During it, in particular at the end of the fourth, he demanded aggression, hovering above his boxer and pleading for more.

It was the first points victory of Joshua's career

Parker was pounced upon immediately after rising from his stool, as Joshua landed a succession of painful body shots which left the challenger’s breath coming in painful rips and rasps. But then Parker rallied, upping the ante in a fascinating fifth round which would ultimately prove to be his finest spell of the fight.

Increasing his work rate, he set about forcing a polite boxing match into a brawl. He was moderately successful, catching Joshua with a big right hook which briefly had the champion reeling back, as he darted in with the left. But Joshua survived with something to spare. And when a small cut opened up near Parker’s left eye a few rounds later, the writing was already on the wall. He wasn’t much helped by the referee Giuseppe Quartarone either — a man who proved as fussy as his name suggests — who repeatedly interrupted the fight and doggedly present Parker from working on the inside.

“I know the bookies say I might get a knockout but forget the hype, Parker was a world champion,” Joshua later reflected. “This was a boxing match, not a fight. Parker said this would be war, I said this would be boxing finesse.”

Joshua’s most recent stoppages have come late — in the 11th against the great Wladimir Klitschko and in the 10th against Takam — but he showed little appetite to ending this contest with a bang. Instead he capably project managed the final two rounds, en route to a dominant points victory. Two judges scored it 118-110. One 119-109. Those totals were probably right.

And in keeping with the elegant if not especially exciting conclusion to the fight, there was to be no wide-eyed Wilder making threats against Joshua’s life in the ring, having hurtled the ropes from a ringside seat. The WBC champion decided against the first-class fight, instead preferring to keep his trash-talk on Twitter. “My grandma always told me if I didn't have anything nice to say to anybody don't say nothing at all,” he trolled. “That's all I'm going to say man... (I'm) the baddest man in the world, the baddest man on the planet, and that's fact.”

Perhaps Wilder will come to regret his travel sickness. For in his absence the former WBA champion of the world Povetkin reasserted his claim for a piece of the juicy heavyweight pie with a sickening knockout blow against the popular David Price. The Russian had been rocked in the third. But just two rounds later he switched out the lights on Price, whose once-promising career could now be over.

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