By Steve Bateson: Anthony Joshua went the distance for the first time in his professional career as he unanimously outpointed New Zealand’s Joseph Parker at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium in Wales on Saturday night to add the WBO Heavyweight Championship to his WBA & IBF Titles.
It wasn’t the rip roaring heavyweight punching spectacle that many have come to predict when Anthony Joshua fights, however the undefeated Briton boxed superbly behind his jab from round one to round 12 and was in control of the contest throughout.
It was a gallant display from Parker, who more than played his part, but he and his team’s claims of Joshua’s "glass chin" did not come to fruition as they very rarely penetrated the defense of AJ and it is hard to recall a time when he landed a flush punch that may have backed up his entourage’s taunts.
Joshua took the centre ring in every round and used his jab to keep Parker on the backfoot. Parker was struggling the close the gap and really had no answer for the reach advantage of Joshua, having to resort to looping overhand right hands from the outside range that the champion was easily able to block.
Parker caught Joshua on the side of the chin with a glancing left hook in the third round after the two men clashed heads but it was a scarce moment of success for the Samoan born man.
He did step up the pace through the middle rounds and was starting to target the body of Joshua on the inside, arguably putting points on the board for the first time in the fight as Joshua seemed to have lost a little of his early energy. It was becoming clear that Parker’s gameplan was to sap Joshua’s energy with body blows and then move upstairs but his percentage of success just wasn’t high enough to swing the contest in his favour.
The referee was terrible, it has to be said, and every time the combatants came in close to exchange the official was breaking them up. Parker seemed to be fighting better on the inside but the referee just would not allow either man to work themselves out of the clinch, it was frustrating for the fighters and for the watching crowd.
The rounds were trickling away with Joshua continuing to control the pace with his jab, displaying the perfect heavyweight tactic, and Parker’s chances of springing the upset were looking bleaker as the seconds went by. Parker was lunging in now, looking more desperate, and after another head clash he was left with a cut by his left eye.
Both men scored crunching left hooks in round 11, probably their best of the fight, but neither was rocked or budged and then the final stanza passed by without much drama, Joshua was able to pace himself toward the finish line whilst continuing to negate any onslaught that Parker may threaten.
In the end it was fairly one sided and lacking in the kind of drama that Joshua has delivered in the past but it was a seasoned, disciplined display against a fellow unbeaten world champion and that should be applauded. For his 21st fight there was a lot of patience and maturity to his performance and now he is on the cusp of making history.
The fight with WBC kingpin Deontay Wilder has to happen in order to crown an Undisputed World Champion. Politics too often spoil this sport and we are denied the best fights but both sides must put their egos and differences aside and make this happen, for their own legacies and for boxing in general.
Scorecards read: 118-110 x 2, 119-109
*More to follow
Alexander Povetkin scored a devastating fifth round knockout over David Price in a thrilling co-main event.
Many were worried for Price heading into this fight, believing it a mismatch on paper after his career defeats, but for four rounds he boxed well and even rocked Povetkin to his core in the third round after climbing off the canvass himself in the same stanza.
Povetkin started the fight by targeting the body of his bigger opponent whilst Price kept a tight, high guard as he attempted to absorb what the Russian threw his way. Povetkin was always looking for the overhand right and left hook that inevitably ended the fight but early doors he could not quite hit the target. Price began to get behind his jab toward the end of the round and an uppercut inside seemed to momentarily sway Povetkin’s balance.
Price was still taking body shots in round two but he was gaining in confidence as his jab was finding its home a little more often. In round three the fight erupted as both men swapped success with heavy blows. Povetkin landed a hard right hand and Price chose to engage, fight fire with fire, and came off second best in the trade of hooks as Povetkin’s landed flush and the Liverpool man was down for an eight count.
In the past that may have spelt the end but Price displayed grit and courage as he clambered up, admonishing himself for his mistake, and he soaked up the inevitable onslaught. Povetkin now looked short of breath and out of nowhere Price scored a sensational left hook that sent the former world champion flying across the ring, the ropes just about holding him up and the referee rightly administered a standing eight count. Povetkin was all at sea but fortunately the bell saved him from any more punishment, one more big punch from Price could have spelt the end.
Both men looked exhausted from the three minute firefight and the crowd were on there feet as they anticipated a big finish. Round four was quiet in comparison to its predecessor but then came the chilling finish in the fifth.
Price was still trying to keep the tight guard but he was waiting too long to get his shot off and Povetkin found a gap to land a crunching right hand to the temple. Price was out on his feet, his eyes glazed over, and his hands dropped to his sides allowing Povetkin to unload with a devastating left hook that send the Englishman crashing to the canvass with brutal impact. The referee waved the fight off immediately as Price was given medical treatment in the ring.
Povetkin is now mandatory challenger to the winner of tonight’s main event but could find himself facing Dillian Whyte in June as he awaits his enforced world title shot. For David Price it may now be retirement but he can hold his head up high after this performance, he rose to the occasion and gave it absolutely everything. On that evidence he showed what could have been in his career, unfortunately it just has not worked out for him.
Ryan Burnett successfully defended his WBA Bantamweight Championship by beating Yonfrez Parejo via unanimous decision .
Burnett’s reflexes, combination punching and precision jab were just some of the key elements to this victory as he looks to establish himself as the main man in the Bantamweight division.
The defending champion worked off his jab in round one, gauging what his opponent had to offer, and then began to follow in with solid rights from the second onward. Parejo was able to time his own right hand in round two, walking Burnett onto one at short distance, but nothing of note made a dent in the Belfast fighter.
Burnett stepped on the gas in round three and landed combination punches to head and body, finishing an attack downstairs with a clubbing right to the head that briefly had the Venezuelan challenger stumbling back. Parejo was struggling with the distance, feeding off scraps if truth be told, and when Burnett did come within range he spoilt his own work with tying up and wrestling.
Parejo had his best round in the fifth and was able to push Burnett back a few times with body shots and reaching punches to the head but still nothing that was having a detrimental effect on the former unified champion. Burnett was back in control in the blink of an eye, using his sublime reflexes to move out of range and then dart back in with eye catching flurries that often left Parejo punching shadows.
A left uppercut snapped the head of Parejo back in round six and already the challenger was facing a mountain to climb if he was the upset the applecart, arguably having lost every round up to the halfway point. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, however, but Parejo just wasn’t on the same kind of level of the Irishman.
Burnett was cut in round seven, not for the first time in his career, but he was not troubled by the injury as he continued to boss proceedings. Parejo’s efforts cannot be faulted but he was outgunned and outmanoeuvred by an opponent who was just too good for him in all departments.
Burnett perhaps should have upped the pace, perhaps a little guilty of admiring his own work at times, but he boxed sensibly, especially with a cut, and picks up a deserved victory. He may not gain many admirers from this performance tonight but he nullified an experienced and talented foe on route to a shutout victory, which deserves merit on its own.
There are rumours that perhaps Burnett will be joining a Bantamweight World Boxing Super Series later this year and if that is true then he will be tested to the hilt by the best that the division has to offer. Those are the kind of fights he needs now, the likes of Zolani Tete and Jamie McDonnell will certainly require the best that Burnett has to offer.
Scorecards read: 120-108 and a baffling 116-112
Anthony Crolla defeated Mexico’s Edson Ramirez via unanimous decision over ten lacklustre rounds.
Crolla, coming off the back of last October’s victory over Ricky Burns, worked well off his jab all night and looked the fighter in control despite the constant forward momentum of Ramirez. The Mexican was game and up for the fight but was unable to really impose himself on the bout for a sustained period of time, watching as the rounds ebbed away without managing to force a foothold in proceedings.
Crolla was cut over the right eye in round three from a clash of heads, which in turn allowed Ramirez to land a left hook to the body, his best punch of the fight to that point, but the cut did not faze the Manchester man nor throw him from his rhythm and he was able to slip back into the same pattern as the previous rounds.
The fight was moving by with very little to report and certainly the highlight reel will be shortlived. Crolla was never troubled by his opponent and there will be claims that he could and probably should have stepped up the pace and forced his opponent to fight at a level that he did not belong. Unfortunately the former world champion seemed content to stay at the same pace, remaining compact and uninspiring as he boxed his way to the decision. The crowd were not hyped in the slightest by anything they witnessed during this bout and for Crolla he will need much more about him to continue to compete at the upper echelons of the 135lbs division.
It may just have been a flat night and the calibre of opponent may have affected the performance however with talk of Crolla facing Luke Campbell later this year he will certainly need to display many more gears to push Campbell to his limits.
Scorecards read: 100-90 x2, 98-92
Josh Kelly produced yet another outstanding performance as he cantered to a ten round victory over Carlos Molina to win the WBA International Welterweight Title.
Kelly’s reflexes were on point throughout and he made the former 154lbs boss look like a shopworn veteran. Molina, urged on by pride and past glory, pressed forward throughout but found openings so difficult to come by whilst trying to second guess what angles the next Kelly attack might come from.
A quick fire left hook seemed to stun the Mexican as early as the first round and his head was constantly snapped back by the lightning quick jab that continuously pumps out from the waistline of the Sunderland fighter.
Molina tasted a modicum of success in round five with a left hook/right cross combo but Kelly merely nodded in acknowledgement before finishing the round with a combo of his own. Kelly was back about his business with the snapping jab in round six, using it set up a series of follow ups including a twisting left uppercut, a crunching right upper and then a hard overhand right that certainly drew a grimace from Molina toward the round’s end.
In round eight Kelly had Molina buzzed again as he drove Molina back to the ropes with a solid straight right hand. He followed up with a right uppercut and left hook that momentarily dipped the knees of the Mexican but Molina was able to weather the storm. Molina continued to walk forward for the remainder of the fight but Kelly was never troubled and was able to showboat his way through the final two rounds.
Molina is a former IBF Super Welterweight Champion and holds victories over the likes of Ishe Smith and Cory Spinks but he just could not find anything in his arsenal to pin Kelly down and implement a gameplan. Kelly’s movement was constant from bell to bell and even when he chose to retreat back to the ropes, inviting pressure, he was too slick and tricky to be caught by anything clean and damaging.
Josh Kelly (now 6-0 with 4 KO’s) is nothing short of an exceptional talent and it is clear he and his team have plans to fast track him toward stardom. The British 147lbs belt is likely to become vacant in the near future and Kelly may choose to compete for that in the coming months.
Scorecards: 98-92 x2 99-91
Joe Cordina captured his first professional title as he blasted out Hakim Ben Ali in three rounds to win the WBA International Lightweight Championship. Cordina was in spiteful mood as he outclassed the Belgian, who was a late replacement for Andy Townend, and dropped Ali three times in the third stanza on way to a routine victory.
Cordina worked well off his jab, targeting head and body early doors, before he started to pick up the pace from round two onward. Body work was sapping the fight from Ali and then a left hook high to the head in round three had him staggering into the ropes. Cordina poured it on and the Belgian took a knee for the first count before damaging body shots had him down a second time just moments later. The writing was on the wall for Ben Ali and it took just one more attack from Cordina to put his foe on the deck again, prompting the official to wave it off.
Cordina (7-0 with 6 KO’s) is a very skilled and slick operator, it is likely he will be contesting domestic honours by the year end. There is no reason for his progress to be stagnated.
Joshua Buatsi’s professional rise continued as he pummelled Bartlomiej Grafka over six one sided rounds. Grafka was tough but extremely limited and had absolutely no answers for what was coming his way from the talented Olympian. Buatsi (now 5-0 with 3 KO’s) has the skills to be a big star in the 175lbs division, he is more than ready for a step up now in his levels of competition.
Home fighter Morgan Jones was stopped on his feet by New Zealand’s Mose Auimatagi in an astonishing finish to their six round Middleweight contest. Jones, entering the bout undefeated, was dominant throughout and had dropped Auimatagi earlier but got caught by a huge hail mary from the South Pacific man, giving the referee no choice but to end the bout with just eight seconds left on the clock.