Joseph Parker outpoints Razvan Cojanu to retain WBO world title
Joseph Parker signed off his New Zealand campaign in solid but unspectacular fashion on Saturday night and now brighter things beckon.
Parker out-pointed big Romanian Razvan Cojanu in south Auckland in a frustrating first defence of his WBO world heavyweight title.
The judges scored it 119-108, 117-110, 117-110 in a fight where Parker couldn't find the knockout blow he so desired and the negative Cojanu threw out more taunts than effective punches.
Crucially Parker held his discipline to retain his belt that will be the bargaining factor heading into a fascinating phase of the glamour division.
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* $50 PPV price to watch inferior Parker fight
* Parker fight goes live to crucial UK market
Now Parker will hope it's on to bigger and better things after the bulk of his 23 unbeaten fights have been in the comforts of home.
His faithful were at the 3000-seater Manukau Events Centre to see off the 25-year-old but it all seemed a world away from events at Wembley last weekend when 90,000 witnessed Anthony Joshua become king of the ring.
Parker's win keeps him on track for a crack at Joshua, who now owns the WBA, IBF and IBO belts, but this latest effort, broadcast live into the UK, will hardly have the big Brit quaking in his boots.
It will keep him a target in the eyes of rival fighters and promoters who will continue to see him as the vulnerable figure among the current champions.
Parker has options with America's WBC champion Deontay Wilder relentless in his pursuit of a unification fight with the Kiwi. But Parker's handlers see Britain as the more lucrative market and are keen on seeing their man fight Tony Bellew if they can work around the ever-present mandatory challenge of Hughie Fury.
Either fighter will be a good foot in the door and a significantly stronger challenge than Cojanu presented, stepping in to replace Fury who withdrew with a back injury a fortnight ago.
Parker was left in a no-win situation but tried to make the best of it. The unheralded Cojanu, ranked No 14 by the WBO but with a world rating of 78 better reflecting his talent, was scorned by international media in the leadup to the bout.
Parker was determined to make a statement with his own performance but didn't manage that as he battered away at the granite in front of him.
Giving away 13kg, Parker largely had the measure of his sparring partner and only really allowed Cojanu to express his own talent over the dying rounds.
American referee Mike Ortega deducted a point against Cojanu in the fourth round due to repeatedly pushing down the neck of Parker during the clinches
The Romanian's negative tactics took the gloss off the fight and the crowd grew restless.
All the while Parker kept chipping away and got so far ahead on points that he had to be cautious in the final rounds not to leave himself vulnerable.
He managed to do that, surviving a ragged flurry in the final round, to see off Cojanu and retain his belt - and that's the treasure to take away from this effort.
Parker's younger brother John kept his unbeaten record going on the undercard when he beat Christchurch's Ratu Dawai by unanimous points in their cruiserweight contest.
The big mover in the early fights though was Kevin Barry's impressive Russian light-heavyweight Umar Salamov.
Using a lightning jab backed up by a powerful right hand he demolished Croatian Emil Markic with a fourth round TKO to go to 19-0.
Salamov won the vacant WBO international and IBF East-West Europe belts but more importantly rammed home his standing to his new bosses at Duco who look likely to give him a role in the Manny Pacquiao versus Jeff Horne world title fight card in Brisbane in July.
The Australian grudge match saw their lightweight champion George Kambosos outpoint Qamil Balla over 10 enthralling rounds that brought the crowd to their feet at the end of an absorbing contest.
Jordan Tuigamala, son of All Blacks great Inga Tuigamala, finished off Nigel Elliott 51s into the third round of their catchweight (86kg) clash.
Tuigamala floored Elliott with a straight right in the first exchange of the fight and the bout didn't get any better for the Hamilton fighter who ended up sprawled halfway otuside the ring when caught flush by a vicious uppercut.
The pedigree theme to the undercard continued with 22-year-old Tim Tszyu, son of Australian double light-weltwerweight world champion Kostya Tszyu, demolishing Kiwi Ivana Siau.
Tszyu dominated from the outset, using his hand speed to constantly trouble the game Siau. His power and accuracy proved too much with Tszyu clubbing Siau to the canvas 2m 45s into the second round of their 71kg catchweight fight.