Joseph Parker tore up the script for that eagerly-awaited Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder superfight by shocking the ‘Bronze Bomber’ in convincing fashion in Saudi Arabia.
The New Zealander (now 34-3) was just about punch perfect as he dominated throughout to claim a unanimous decision on that massive ‘Day of Reckoning’ show in Riyadh. Wilder (43-3-1) meanwhile looked like a 38-year-old who had been out of action for 14 months – rusty and out of touch.
The American had come into the fight knowing he only had to avoid defeat here to set up that March 9 showdown with Joshua, but that now would appear to be off the agenda once again.
Round 1 was the ultimate scouting assignment for both men as hardly a meaningful punch was thrown. Deontay was on the back foot and delivered almost nothing bar a couple of attempted jabs. Parker meanwhile was on the front foot, controlling centre ring and at least trying with a couple of right hands.
The second was another incredibly difficult round to score, as Wilder once again retreated while feinting a million times. Parker meanwhile did unleash a right hand which just whistled past the ‘Bronze Bomber’ as he moved his chin out of the way.
Parker’s main challenge was cutting the distance to Wilder while giving up a seven-inch reach advantage to the American. He was the aggressor (in relative terms at least) again in the third, and landed with a couple of stiff jabs late in the session.
Parker raises the stakes
The fourth was a good round for Parker, who stiffened the legs of Wilder with a lovely right to the temple late in the session. He did get a warning of what could happen though, when a big right hand from Wilder on the counter just failed to connect.
Parker was quickly on the offensive again in the fifth, moving in swiftly with another sharp assault as Wilder clinched. The ‘Bronze Bomber’ meanwhile was really struggling to find any sort of foothold in the fight and the right hand was missing time after time after time.
Wilder clearly knew there was a need for greater urgency, and at last moved onto the front foot in Round 6 to let his punches go. He was still missing with that big right, but at least he was starting to throw it. Parker meanwhile continued to try and launch attacks, trying to cut that distance constantly.
Deontay continued to try and find his range coming back from that 14-month layoff, but twice he walked into rights over the top from Parker. This was starting to become concerning for the former WBC heavyweight king, but he still had the great equaliser in his locker – that massive right hand. The only question was whether he could land it. The clock was ticking.
Deontay in deep waters
Round 8 provided the best action of the fight so far as Wilder was almost put on his back by a furious assault by Parker. It began with a right over the top which landed flush, and the flurry which followed had Deontay on the wobbliest of legs. Somehow he survived to hear the bell.
Wilder surely knew he needed to up the pace significantly after that traumatic eighth round, but we did not see it. Instead it looked like he had not recovered from the punishment he took, eating another right early in the ninth. Parker was injecting the pace when needed, Wilder was going backwards. He now had just three rounds to turn this round – could he recover?
Deontay looked a little sharper as the 10th got away, perhaps the cobwebs were finally clearing from that eighth-round assault by Parker. He needed to take risks now though, but still there was way too little coming from the man from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was a round lacking in meaningful action.
The penultimate 11th round saw Wilder try to land more shots, but he looked like a 38-year-old who had been out of the ring for 14 months – out of touch and out of range. Parker again was the more productive of the two, and now had just three minutes (surely) between him and a terrific win.
Parker came out for the 12th to land that overhand right yet again, before Wilder hammered on his back time after time. At least there was a sense of desperation in Deontay, but to date it was delivering little. The American did land a nice right midway through the session but time was running out and Parker was still very much standing.
Wilder missed by a whisker with a big right as we ticked into the final minute but Parker came right back by landing a big right. He was almost home now and as the bell sounded only the judges could deny him a famous victory. To the scorecards we went.
Wilder vs Parker scorecards
Any fears that Parker would be denied a famous victory were unfounded as all three judges scored it by a wide margin for the former WBO heavyweight king.
John Latham had it 118-110, Michael Alexander had it 118-111 while Steve Gray had Parker pitching a shutout for a 120-108 victory.