Joseph Parker admits he came up short but is thrilled to retain his WBO belt
An honest Joseph Parker feels he only achieved "60 to 70 per cent" of what he set out to do in the first defence of his WBO world heavyweight belt.
Importantly Parker still has that coveted belt after scoring a comfortable but frustrating unanimous points decision against big Romanian Razvan Cojanu in Manukau, south Auckland, on Saturday night.
Hoping to make a statement in his farewell fight before heading north to the spoils of Britain in a rapidly heating heavyweight scene, the fight often fell as flat as the problem-plagued promotion.
Disappointingly the knockout blow couldn't be delivered that would have put the UK audience and his rivals on notice.
Giving away 13kg and considerable height and reach, Parker just couldn't budge a cagey but crafty Cojanu.
"Maybe 60 to 70 per cent," Parker said when asked if he had achieved what he set out to do in this performance.
"There's still a lot to improve on. But it's an exciting journey, we're here now, we've defended the belt once, we've kept it here and Samoa and we are going to defend it as many times as we can."
Parker felt his fitness and discipline were the positives to take out of this fight as he moves on to bigger markets.
"The fitness is great ... another 12 rounds ... I know i can dig deep.
"Discipline was very, very important. He was looking for me to make a mistake and stand there and trade," Parker said, saying his game plan had been to fight at a distance and off the back foot.
Parker was taunted all night by Cojanu, the WBO No 14 who showboated, looking to lure the Kiwi in.
Cojanu was also quick to use clinches to tie up Parker and had a point deducted for repeatedly pushing down Parker's head during their far too frequent tangles.
"He was saying I'm scared but I wasn't getting sucked into his trap. I'm a smarter boxer and I move and box," Parker said.
"He wanted me to stand there and exchange but I didn't allow it to happen, so I feel I followed the game plan as best I could.
"But there's still a lot to improve on, a lot to work on and I feel you are going to see more improvements with each fight."
Cojanu was a late replacement for the injured Hughie Fury, only taking the fight on 12 days notice.
The change in opponent upset the rhythm of Parker's preparations, even though he was well accustomed to being in a ring with Cojanu, having sparred around 100 rounds with him at two of his last three camps, as Parker used the 2.02m Romanian to prepare for taller opposition.
That familiarity, as Parker's trainer Kevin Barry had repeatedly warned in the build-up, contributed to the struggles on fight night.
"It shows that when he's been training with us he's picked up my style, he knows how I fight," Parker said.
"I did the best I could ... I put it down to we both knew each other's style.
"Kevin said not to underestimate him. This was his chance. He came here to win, he did his best, but we didn't allow him to execute his plan."
Cojanu's plan was surprisingly negative. Short on preparation, he seemed happy to try to drag the fight deep into the rounds and look for a late flurry to secure victory.
In the end it was Parker who got the deserved result. it mightn't have been everything he wanted. But in this game, a win's a win and he lives to fight another day.