Joseph Parker recovered from a disastrous start to overcome Dereck Chisora by a wafer-thin split decision after a gruelling heavyweight encounter in Manchester on Saturday night.
The 29-year-old Kiwi was on the deck just seven seconds in and was under fire for most of the first half of a fascinating clash broadcast live by Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and DAZN in more than 200 markets around the world.
He regained his composure though to come on strong in the second half of the bout. And in the end he did just enough to redress the balance and overcome that awful beginning.
Parker down in Round 1
The action was thrilling right from the get-go, as Chisora came out like a steam train and had Parker on the floor just 7 seconds into proceedings. A big right hand over the top landed flush and stunned the New Zealander. He was up quickly and able to continue after taking the count of eight.
Chisora smelled blood and continued to put real pressure on Parker for the first two minutes of the fight, while his opponent hung on for dear life at times.
The final minute of the opening session was better for Joseph as he started to regain some composure and establish his potent jab.
The second brought more of the same with Chisora trying to make it a close-range fight and bidding to rough up Parker. His best moments where when he got close enough to dig in body shots, while Parker produced some classy combinations teed up by that left jab.
Dereck continued to make it his type of fight in the third as he kept coming forward relentlessly and battering away to the body of Parker. Joseph did land a lovely double left hook late in the session, but potentially not enough to take it.
Into the fourth and it was developing into a really gruelling affair, exactly as Chisora would want. He yet again applied heavy pressure while Joseph produced the classier shots.
The pace showed the first signs of slowing ever so slightly in the fifth, but again Chisora landed plenty of leather to the body of the New Zealander. Parker again was trying to find space to operate, teeing up the right hand and uppercuts with the jab.
Parker enjoyed his best round of the night to date in the sixth as he boxed smartly, and started to properly let his hands go. The right hand/uppercut combination was productive, though Chisora kept him honest with a flurry punctuated by two body shots and an uppercut of his own.
Joseph comes on strong
Joseph continued to improve as the bout moved into its second half, and for the first time in the seventh he was properly on top. A lovely combination late in the session stiffened Chisora’s legs momentarily.
The eighth was the best round of the fight to date, and the last minute saw both men trading furiously with Parker providing the most accurate and classier punches. Dereck appeared just a little weary as he trudged back to his corner.
Joseph again held sway in the ninth, finding space to operate behind that sweet jab and setting up power shots to keep Chisora honest. Dereck for his part showed the tremendous stamina we know he has by continuing to stalk the New Zealander and hammer away to the body.
The 10th was very close and pretty even. Chisora showed he was by no means done, landing a nice right late in the session. Parker had earlier landed a lovely uppercut.
Parker enjoyed a productive 11th, boxing smartly from range and landing the better shots while Chisora trudged forward throughout.
The fight appeared to be very much still in the melting pot heading into the final round, and Chisora started the better – landing a couple of powerful right hands. Parker though finished better, landing some cracking punches in the final minute of a gruelling session.
To the scorecards they went, and Parker prevailed by a wafer-thin margin, taking a split decision after a strength-sapping encounter. He was up on two cards by 116-111 and 115-113 while Chisora took the other 115-113.
Parker improves to 29-2 and will continue to push for another world-title shot. But yet again the 37-year-old Chisora (now 32-11) gave an elite heavyweight the sternest of examinations. And the questions remain about whether Joseph – ranked #3 by the WBO – has the quality at the very top level to reign for a second time in what is a booming heavyweight division.
The Kiwi himself believes it’s very achievable, though there is much hard work ahead. It started here with what was a brutal encounter.
Parker on Chisora win
Parker revealed: “I am feeling it. Derek landed a lot of shots on me. I’ll probably feel it more tomorrow. The plan was to come out and box smartly and stay focused. I got caught right at the beginning. I think it was round the back of the head, I didn’t see it.
“The plan was to box and move and be smart. With the guidance of Andy I was able to box. We didn’t have the longest time together. I know I needed a lot of work. I need to keep learning from Andy and practicing the things we work on in the gym.
“It was a tough fight and I got caught right at the beginning. I just had to dig deep and stay focused and follow the plan that we had in place. Swayed off a bit, but Derek is a very tough opponent. He came forward, put pressure on me from the beginning. Threw big bombs and landed a lot.
“The boxing skills won me some rounds towards the end. It was a very close fight. I thought it could go either way, and I’m very thankful and blessed to get the win today. He brought the smoke. If you want to feel it, jump in the ring with him.
“It’s very achievable [world title fight]. I just have to get back to the training. There’s a lot of things I have to work on. I had a good plan in place. There’s still a lot I can show, I just have to keep working with Andy, and more camps ahead. We could do it next fight.”