The huge global audience and the 80,000 fans packed into Cardiff's Principality Stadium had to settle for a fight that was low on drama and high on calculated boxing on Saturday night.
Anthony Joshua won a wide unanimous decision in his unification fight against New Zealand's Joseph Parker, which ran on Showtime in the US.
Contributing to the lack of fireworks was the overly fussy performance of the referee Giuseppe Quartarone. The Italian official looked ill equipped to deal with a fight of this magnitude and constantly stepped in to separate the fighters whenever the action looked like it was heating up.
Bizarre refereeing aside, Joshua was the deserving winner. While the cards of 118-110 twice and 119-109 were probably a bit wide, they reflected the English boxer's overall control of the contest. Using his physical advantages, Joshua utilised his jab to keep his opponent on the back foot for the majority of the bout. Joshua now owns the WBO, IBF and WBA “Super” belts.
Hopefully a fight against WBC holder Deontay Wilder will happen so we can crown an undisputed heavyweight champion.
After much fanfare and lengthy ring walks the fight began with both boxers attempting to gauge exactly what they were up against by throwing jabs only in the opening round. Towards the end of the opening session Joshua was walking his man down and this set the tone for the rounds that followed. Parker just couldn't get off his back foot as the home fighter stalked and increased his jab output in rounds two and three.
The fourth frame saw Parker come to life in an attacking sense. His head movement was good as he ducked and moved inside to give Joshua a taste of his offense. This must have given the Kiwi a shot of confidence as he had his best moments in the fifth round, actively pursuing Joshua across the ring and pressuring his larger foe. This was when referee Quartarone first demonstrated his uselessness as during a fiery bit of in-fighting he rushed in and split the fighters. Sadly this would continue to happen for the remainder of the bout.
Round six saw Parker begin as the aggressor but towards the end of the three minutes Joshua had regained control of the centre of the ring and once again had Parker backing up. The seventh was interesting as Parker held his ground more and was meeting fire with fire. This led to more infighting and of course our friend Giuseppe ruining things just as we were getting engaged by the action.
Perhaps the best one punch landed in round eight. Joshua landed a left hook/uppercut as Parker was momentarily leaning down at the correct angle for Anthony to throw that shot. The New Zealander took the shot well and didn't show any ill effects.
Round nine saw Joshua dominating behind his jab and then take matters into his own hands when he walked to his corner to get some tape reattached. Mr Quartarone, who should've picked up on this much earlier, just shrugged and signalled for a timeout while this was going on. Round ten saw Parker looking tired and dealing with a cut and a bit of swelling near his left eye. Would he have a big finish in him?
The championship rounds were split evenly. Parker put all he could into the eleventh, actively trying to work his way inside of Joshua's commanding jab and land some shots. This may have emptied the reserves he had left as the last round saw Joshua back to dominating behind his jab with not much resistance coming back from Parker.
The final bell sounded and Michael Buffer announced the wide scores not long after.
Both men spoke about the bout to host broadcaster Sky Sports.
Joshua: “My strategy in there was to stick behind the jab. The old saying is the right hand will take you around the block but a good jab will take you around the world. I was switched on, I was focused and twelve rounds baby. I made sure this was about boxing finesse. I controlled things behind the jab. I am the unified heavyweight champion of the world.”
Parker: “Today I got beaten by a better champion, the better man, there's a lot to work on. No regrets, I'll take it on the chin, the better man on the day won. We've just got to look forward. I'm young, fit, strong. I don't go down. We'll be back again stronger.”
Inevitably the evening closed out with talk of what will be to come. The final word was delivered by Joshua when asked about becoming the unified champion. WBC title holder Wilder was put on notice by Joshua. When asked what he would need to do to beat Wilder, the confident Joshua answered, “get him in the ring and I'll knock him spark out.”