It was not the declaration of intent he wanted to send to his fellow heavyweight world titleholders, but Joseph Parker felt he did enough to deserve the majority decision over Hughie Fury on Saturday.
New Zealand’s Parker made a second defense of his WBO world heavyweight title by winning a majority decision over Fury by scores of 118-110, 118-110 and 114-114 at the Manchester Arena.
“I felt the aggression was good on my side,” Parker said. “He was really awkward and his movement was good, but I caught him with the harder punches I felt.”
But Fury’s movement around the ring had left Parker looking nervous as the scores were about to be announced. Parker was unable to land any clean or powerful blows to trouble Fury, of England, in a messy and dreary fight.
Nevertheless, it was a win that silenced Fury’s home crowd and also improved Parker’s hopes of fighting one of the big names in the division.
After extending his unbeaten record, Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) wants to return to England to face the likes of IBF and WBA world titlist Anthony Joshua, or the winner of the Tony Bellew-David Haye rematch, who are expected to meet again Dec. 17.
None of the above, as well as American Deontay Wilder, who holds the WBC version of the world title, will be concerned by what they saw from Parker at Manchester Arena.
Fury (20-1, 10 KOs) boxed smartly but without endangering Parker. He can be pleased with his display after such a long lay off.
In Parker’s time as champion, Fury had been inactive until they met in the challenger’s home city at Manchester Arena, which was only reopened earlier this month after 22 people were killed by a terror attack at the venue May 22.
Fury, who just turned 23 five days ago, had not boxed since April 30, 2016, due to a skin disease that left him too tired to train. Then, the mandatory challenger had to pull out of facing Parker in New Zealand on May 6 due to a back injury.
In that time, Parker had become New Zealand’s first world heavyweight champion with a points win over Andy Ruiz in December, before another decision victory over Romania’s Razvan Cojanu in May.
But Fury claimed he felt like a new man after putting his problems behind him, and his footwork, along with his flicking jab, gave Parker problems early on. Parker, who trains in Las Vegas, could not get going until the second half of the fight and began to open up more in the eighth round.
Fury had some success of his own, including an impressive right uppercut in the sixth round, but Parker was stronger in the later rounds.
Parker stepped up the pace in the ninth, and a flurry of punches and then an overhand right found the target. Many of the rounds were close and difficult to score, and Parker increased his urgency late on, perhaps fearing he was losing the fight.
Fury continued to work behind his jab in the tenth, and Parker’s footwork was not as sharp as the challenger’s as he struggled to land the big shots.
But Parker finished strong, landing a big right early in Round 12 and then another big right over the top. Parker still looked unsure of victory at the end, and Fury’s family spilled into the ring thinking their man had won.
Fury felt the scores were awry.
“I don’t know what happened there with the judges,” Fury said in the ring.