Joseph Parker claimed victory in New Zealand’s biggest heavyweight fight ever when he outpointed Junior Fa in Auckland on Saturday night.
Former WBO heavyweight king Parker (now 28-2) posted a unanimous decision at Spark Arena despite a night where he was largely frustrated by a smart and intelligent performance from Fa (who falls to 19-1).
Parker – currently ranked #3 by the WBO and chasing another title shot – prevailed by scores of 119-109 (somehow…), 115-113 and 117-111.
Beforehand there was much talk about the four fights the pair had split as amateurs. Parker though claimed he was a “totally different animal” now having lived at elite world level for a number of years.
The bookmakers appeared to agreed – making Joseph a 1/12 betting favourite with Junior as big as 8/1. On the night though the predicted gulf in class didn’t materialise as Fa put up a really composed performance.
He nullified Parker’s big right hand for most of the night and began to produce some nice shots of his own as the bout wore on.
Just not enough though as the judges handed Parker that unanimous decision.
Parker vs Fa round-by-round
The opening session was a fascinating one, with Parker trying to get inside by using his superior speed. Fa meanwhile was content to box off the back foot with a notable reach advantage. Both men landed decent left hands late in the round, with Fa stiffening Parker’s legs with his sweet shot.
Round 2 offered more of the same, with Parker starting to find his range better after Fa had opened the stanza jabbing nicely. Joe scored with some decent shots to the body – clearly a concerted effort to weaken his man downstairs. He also produced a lovely short left uppercut which surprised Fa.
Fa opened up Round 3 more aggressively, but he was soon back in defence mode as Parker landed the most significant shot of the fight so far. That was a peach of a right hand which caused Fa to hold on for dear life. The Parker tactics were working well early – punishing shots to the body mixed in with short lefts and overhand rights to the head.
The fourth was a much better session for Fa as he boxed nicely and landed a sweet left hook just to keep Parker honest. He appeared to be none the worse for shipping that big right during the previous session.
Junior had perhaps his best round so far in the fifth as he boxed patiently but landed a couple of short, chopping right hands to the head of Parker.
Round 6 was undoubtedly Fa’s best yet as he continued to grow in confidence. He jabbed well while the right hand continued to be a potent weapon. He even managed to surprise Parker with a left hook on the inside. But Fa did end the session with a small cut to the side of his left eye.
Parker appeared frustrated in the seventh as he was stifled in his attempts to go to work inside. Fa meanwhile continued to show great composure and fundamentals. Joseph though did land a crashing overhand right late in the session.
Joseph enjoyed better success in the eighth as he landed a decent right and a left hook. He was the aggressor again while Fa continued to box intelligently and display a good chin.
The first two minutes of round 9 were rough and tough with little meaningful landed – mainly the pair trying to work inside. Parker though did mount a big assault late in the session and blood started to blow more freely from that Fa cut.
Fa was back in good shape in the 10th as he again boxed well and landed a peach of a right hand through the guard of Parker. The blood again flowed freely from that cut, but thankfully not into Fa’s left eye.
The penultimate round was better for Parker as he mounted another assault with resulted in a nice flurry which saw multiple shots land. Fa though was still calmness personified as he responded with another short right. He as clearly frustrating Parker, as evidenced by Joseph shaking his head in the corner after the session ended.
Into round 12 they went, with both corners on their feet screaming at their men. The first 30 seconds saw aggression from both, followed by a couple of minutes where it was mostly clinches and the pair looking distinctly weary. Parker tried to impress the judges again late on, but once more it was a case of more missing than landed.
Parker vs Fa scorecards
To the scorecards they went, and the first surprise was a 119-109 in favour of Parker – appearing to be a massive insult to Fa’s work on the night. The other two were more believable as Joseph took them 115-113 and 117-111 to take victory.
Parker vs Fa analysis
Junior may have dropped the decision and suffered his first professional defeat. But he came out of this fight with his reputation very much enhanced. He showed good technical ability and a really calm head and gameplan, while landing the right hand regularly to keep Parker honest.
Joseph meanwhile came away with the win but endured a frustrating night. It wasn’t the blowout many had expected, and he will head for Auckland’s latest Tier 3 lockdown for COVID-19 (enforced from 0600 local time Sunday) with plenty to review and work on.