Joseph Parker overpowers Jason Bergman in Samoa
It may have taken a longer than expected but Joseph Parker celebrated his Samoan excursion in dominant style as he overpowered American Jason Bergman with an eighth round TKO in Apia.
Fighting at the birthplace of his parents for the first time, Parker promised to put on a show and that's exactly what he did in putting the 31-year-old southpaw away with a series of heavy blows to the body to extend his unbeaten record to 18-0.
It caps an impressive 10-month period for the Kiwi-Samoan heavyweight, reeling off six-straight knockouts to power his way into the top 10 rankings of the WBO, IBF and WBC, with more rises sure to come off the back of Saturday night's result.
Many questioned the credibility of Bergman heading into the fight, but he proved extremely durable and showed impressive agility for his burly physique.
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But the result was all that mattered to the 2000 or so supporters who packed out the Faleata Sports Complex and those watching around the country, who were simply happy to see one of their favourite sons perform on home soil.
"I'm glad I got the victory here in Samoa, the crowd was amazing," Parker said in the post-fight press conference. "I knew I could've finished it off a bit earlier when I got him down and that but I just had to work on a few things."
Parker dished out plenty of punishment to Bergman, particularly to the body and knocked him down in the second round.
Trainer Kevin Barry was amazed the fight lasted as long as it did.
"I couldn't believe how durable he was, he came to survive and he had those blinkers up the whole time," Barry said. "He knew that Joe was a powerful guy and I was really surprised that he lasted the time that he did, especially the body shots he absorbed."
Bergman was Parker's first southpaw opponent as a professional, which the former Tough Man champion from Pittsburgh was hoping to use to his advantage.
Despite a record of 25-11-2 heading into the fight, Bergman had won 16 of his last 18 fights and had recently sparred with WBC champion Deontay Wilder in preparation for last week's successful title defence against Artur Szpilka.
And while he appeared frustrated at times as he failed to secure the early finish, it was another box ticked by Parker as he was rarely troubled by the unorthodox style.
Bergman was disappointed he couldn't take the fight the distance but says Parker is far from the finished article.
"He's a strong hitter, throws nice combinations. But I honestly believe he has a little bit development left with things," he said.
"I saw the openings, I just couldn't breathe. The humidity affected me more than I really thought it would."
One of the few occasions the Kiwi was caught came in the first round as he tried to establish the jab.
Bergman taunted his taller rival on a couple occasions and he got what he wished for in the second with Parker coming out far more aggressive.
He stunned Bergman with a right body-shot before unleashing a flurry of shots to send him to the canvas, only for Bergman to regain his feet and survive the round.
Bergman continued to absorb plenty of punishment and looked sure to go down in the fifth but, despite cries of "Parker" from the crowd, the local favourite couldn't finish him off.
Loose tape on Parker's gloves at the start of the seventh gave Bergman a much needed breather but it was little help as he powered on, forcing his rival to take a knee.
But one minute and two seconds into the eighth he finally had enough, with one final body shot ending Bergman's night.
With the victory Parker defended his WBO Oriental and WBO Pan African titles but much bigger tests await in 2016.
The 24-year-old is hoping to move into a mandatory challenger position with one of the major boxing organisations by the end of the year to challenge for a world title.
His next bout is in April in Christchurch with promoters Duco eyeing a significant step up in opposition to continue his development as a fighter.
For now, though, it is time to put his feet up and enjoy a few more days at his favourite holiday destination after taking care of business.
* Marvin France travelled to Samoa courtesy of Duco Events, the fight promoter and Joseph Parker's management company.