Joseph Parker - five things we learned
It wasn't a vintage Joseph Parker performance and not the statement send-off he wanted as he gets set to takes his talents to bigger markets offshore.
But, importantly, he still has his WBO world heavyweight belt and his unanimous points victory over Razvan Cojanu in Manukau provided some valuaable insights as he starts to pack his bags for a likely fight in Britain.
Here are five things we learned from Parker's 23rd consecutive victory.
1 – He has got a good chin
After 23 fights Parker is yet to be put on the canvas and that's a badge of honour, especially in the heavyweight division where the big bangers operate. The big Cojanu connected with a couple of decent shots and, as in previous fights, when Parker gets clubbed he gets angry rather than defensive. It enrages him into action. Heavier hitters await, but a granite jaw is a massive asset.
2 – He has got increasing discipline
Parker hasn't always followed the script laid out for him by Kevin Barry, often to the trainer's frustration. But he's getting better and better at enacting fight plans. The Cojanu fight was a case in point. When Parker couldn't find a knockout over the first half of the fight but complied a mountain of points in his favour, he was clever enough to let the bout play out and accept the decision. Apart from a brief explosion in the last round when a desperate Cojanu finally went on the attack, Parker saw the sense in protecting the precious WBO belt for bigger things.
3 – The power question mark still nags
Having won 18 of 23 fights by stoppages for a 78 per cent knockout ratio is an impressive statistic on any fighter's record. But the inability to deliver statement blows in some of his bigger fights – he has been forced to go the distance in three of his last five fights – has been frustrating. Sore shoulders and elbows are a fighter's lot. But Parker has been on such a freight train ride over the past four years with 19 fights squeezed in, the worry is that the workload is catching up just when it matters most. Champions get to pick and choose their fights and Anthony Joshua's handlers have signalled he might only fight twice a year now. Rest will be a key ingredient for Parker from here too.
4 – He's got a big gas tank
Forget any physical niggles, Parker's motor purrs and he's got a heart to match it. He's now got 111 rounds under his belt and 36 of those have come under genuine championship situations in the eliminator against Carlos Takam, the rugged battle with Andy Ruiz and now the slog against Cojanu. Experience is a vital commodity as he heads forward and so is the reassurance of knowing he can comfortably go the distance. In all of those 12 rounders Parker has looked strong in the final stages and in close fights that's the time to shine. He seems to have found a comfortable fighting weight around 111kg and has maintained that amidst some obvious upper body development. He's not the huge specimen that his main opponents in trying to unify the division are, but he doesn't lack the endurance or energy to remain a force.
5 – He's outgrown the local market
Yes, it really is time to leave New Zealand. The sloppy Manukau promotion didn't reflect the status of the occasion, his first defence of a genuine world title. It's been a fun ride watching Parker's rapid progress amidst the comforts of home. But the really big fights beckon and they don't appear financially viable here considering what can be made offshore. The time in the limelight can be fleeting for a boxer. Parker has to earn his fortune while he can. He has to turn his international doubters into believers and that has to happen on bigger stages against bigger names.