Anthony Joshua overcame a tough challenge from Joseph Parker to unify the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles on Saturday night in Cardiff.
The Brit was taken the distance for the first time in his career, but came through with a comfortable unanimous decision victory – winning 118:110, 118:110, 119-109.
At the beginning of the fight it was his opponent, Parker, who started the faster of the two as he looked to establish his jab, however Joshua soon took over and began to assert himself.
The 28-year-old responded in the second and third, frustrating the New Zealander with his lead left hand.
It was a controlled display of boxing from the Brit as he put his height and reach advantages to good use and dominated the centre of the ring.
The fifth saw improvement from Parker who showed why he’s a champion, refusing to wilt despite a tough start.
Joshua appeared to hurt his younger foe at the beginning of the sixth, prompting the beginnings of a small brawl which the referee struggled to separate. Parker had control of the rest of the round and made Joshua look sloppy at times by landing effective counter punches.
The pair again exchanged leather in the eighth as concerns began to grow about the referee’s insistence to separate them as soon as they got close to one another. As a result, the fight began to fall a bit flat.
In the tenth, Parker picked up a cut from an accidental Joshua elbow and struggled as AJ maintained a solid pace.
By the final two rounds, both men were noticeably tired, but Joshua landed the more definitive punches to see the fight out. The judges recognised this, awarding him a wide victory on the cards.
“My strategy in there was stick behind the jab,” Joshua said in his post-fight interview. “It’s one of the most important weapons. The right hand can take you around the block, but the jab can take you around the world.
“As I said, this will be about boxing finesse. The main thing we cannot forget is that I am the unified heavyweight champion of the world.”
On going the distance for the first time in his career, Joshua declared: “12 rounds baby, I thought it was hard, right? Light work.”
Questions were then inevitably raised about WBC champion Deontay Wilder, who holds the only remaining title not owned by Joshua.
“You’re asking me do I wanna become undisputed heavyweight champion of the world? Forget the hype, I’m about business so let’s get the business done.
“Just like Dillian said, Wilder, let’s go baby, let’s go!
“All these years the UK fighters had to go to America. We can do it in London, we’re staying right here. Wilder or Fury, either one.”
“What would I have to do to beat Wilder? Get him in the ring and I’ll knock him spark out.”
Joseph Parker reacted humbly in defeat, simply saying: “Today I got beaten by a better champion, a better man. Thank you all for the opportunity. No regrets.”
Earlier in the night, Alexander Povetkin stopped David Price to secure his WBA mandatory status to challenge Anthony Joshua and Ryan Burnett defeated Yonfrez Parejo to retain his bantamweight world title.
There were also wins for Anthony Crolla, Josh Kelly, Joshua Buatsi and Joe Cordina on the undercard.